Now that both the Democratic and Republican conventions are a wrap and there remain just over six weeks before the November election, voters are left with a lot of messages – mixed and challenging – to sort through. “Showtime” in Denver and St. Paul played to two vastly different audiences, each canonizing their candidate and demonizing their opponent.

To date, the road to the presidency has been more like an “American Idol” contest than a political campaign. Person and personality have become the smoke and mirrors that leave voters wondering about what happened to the crucial issues – the war, the economy, health care, education, energy, global warming, to name only a few. “Change” seems to be the elixir that will cure all ills and is the central theme for both parties.

Senator Barack Obama has become an icon of historical impact. His cries of “Enough!” are rallying the Democrats to believe he can take on Washington and make a difference. His oratory captivates and his Kennedy-like charisma speaks not so much of Camelot but of the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King. Still, it feels like his ability to take on Washington has yet to be established.

Senator John McCain, on the other hand, is an American hero and a warrior. His earlier role of underdog has morphed into maverick. A true Republican, his warning to Washington to watch out seems more directed at and critical of Congress than the current administration and its policies. But to win in November it seems he is running, for the moment, at least, as a Republocrat.

Fortunately, the debates are yet to come. I, for one, wish that the media would adopt the Saddleback Church format of a few weeks past. I learned a great deal about both candidates in those two hours as they separately put words to their beliefs and moral make-up. No smoke, no mirrors.

The issues confronting our nation deserve the same treatment – as does each candidate’s meaning of their rallying word “change.” I cannot believe that whoever wins in November will miraculously part the Red Sea of bureaucracy in D.C. but I can hope that the person we send there has a workable plan and power base to do things differently. That is why there should be no trickery with the issues, why each candidate needs to spell out exactly where he stands on each.

There were no rebuttals in the Saddleback interviews; none were needed. If in the debates each candidate addresses and clearly states his position on the most important issues facing all of us – no smoke, no mirrors – the only rebuttal necessary will be that of the voters.

It is not a long, long time from now to November.

As the days grow short we need to remember

Every vote has weight; it gives us our say.

We can help to create a brand new day.

With apologies to Kurt Weill.