Here's the thing -- who gives a shit about how Lebiovich and other elite scribblers feel about the campaign? As Atrios often notes, people genuinely disagree about politics and many care deeply about it-- that isn't going to go away, nor should it.
If journalists like Leibovich are depressed about the state of the debate, then they should think about how they can change it. But it's not the debate that troubles Leibovich, it's the tone, the lack of surprises, and human uplift in the campaign. Boo fucking hoo you self-indulgent mental midget.
This campaign actually involves all manner of deeply consequential issues -- fundamental issues regarding the role of government in our lives, reproductive rights, matters of war and peace, tax policy, and the future of the social safety net, among other things. Yes, it has been characterized by an abundance of lies and baseless attacks by the Republicans and their allied super PACs, but that does not make the debate any less important. And if journalist are offended (rightly) by such things, they could actually call the campaigns on them -- not just fact check them in the narrow mechanical way, but point out the degree to which such tactics are deceptive and not simply materially false.
But journalists don't want to do this -- they don't want the responsibility and they don't want to undertake the effort. Instead, they crave novelty, the excitement of the gaffe, the adrenaline of the scoop (an absolutely absurd concept in this day and age), the lure of the horse race, and the cheap sentimentality of the human interest story or -- be still my beating heart -- bi-partisan hot dog eating at the White House.Newspapers and networks decry the campaign and act like they are helpless onlookers to the process, but journalists do not have to play by the rules that the campaigns attempt to set. They could ignore or debunk baseless attacks, they could resist the daily messages generated by the campaigns, and they could stop writing stories about strategy rather than substance. The New York Times Magazine could actually devote an entire issue or issues to the issues -- in depth treatments devoted to explaining the Ryan Budget or Medicare or the Affordable Care Act or the deficit. The evening network news broadcasts could actually have ten or fifteen minute segments on these matters -- using actual experts rather than partisan operatives to explain to the audience what Obama or Romney propose and what such proposals will likely mean.
However, I think it's safe to day that instead of using their power to change the manner in which the campaigns conduct themselves, journalists are going to continue to indulge in the horse race narrative, to insist that "both sides do it," to report every issue as a kind of "he said, she said" affair as if there is no discernible and ascertainable reality, and to decry the meanness and partisan rancor of the campaign. It's a lot easier than actually doing their jobs would be.