The other day I watched a video from The Onion that captures the tenor of the current Presidential campaign (and every Presidential campaign I can remember) just about perfectly. Politicians from both parties have debates, and nearly all of the coverage is about the campaign rather than the candidates. Who won the debate? Who’s raising the most money? Who committed a gaffe or said something that seems to confirm one of their weaknesses? Are politicians from one party focusing on a candidate from another party because they secretly want them to win? Or are they criticizing them because they want the other party to think they want that candidate to win but really they would prefer to face someone else?
I thought I’d list some actual issues that are important to me and that the next President can actually do something about, and maybe if I have the energy, I’ll try to write up where each of the candidates stands on these issues. What am I looking for from the next President? Here’s a list:
- Someone who can marshal the political will to address global warming in a meaningful way. Most people seem to understand that humans are causing global warming and that if we do nothing about it, problems are ahead. Is there a candidate who can inspire America (and the world) to take positive steps to address global warming?
- Someone who is committed to getting the United States out of the torture business and out of the secret detention business as soon as they take office. Knowing that our government captures people, hides them away, and tortures them (sometimes to death) makes me ashamed of our country.
- Someone who can end the US occupation of Iraq without leaving an intensifying sectarian conflict in our wake. I don’t even know if this can be done at all, but I think it’s a worthy goal.
- Someone who is willing to engage with Iran and is willing to seek a solution that serves both our national interest and theirs. I don’t believe we live in a world where everything good for Iran is bad for America and vice versa.
- Someone who’s willing to make an effort to address the problem of health insurance in this country. We have something like forty million people with no insurance, and health insurance costs are going up rapidly for everyone else. Medicare and Medicaid costs are a long term threat to the fiscal stability of the government. The range of possible solutions to this problem is not as wide as Presidential candidates (and many progressives) like to believe. We’re not going to get the French system with universal, taxpayer-funded health care and doctors who earn $55,000 a year, but a better system is possible.
- Someone who’s willing to be realistic about immigration. Income per capita in Mexico is $7,310 per year, in the United States it’s around $42,000 per year. If you were broke in Mexico and knew you could find work in America, would you not immigrate to the United States, legally or otherwise? As long as that income disparity exists, the northward migration will continue. We need a President who can get beyond treating immigrants like a menace.
There are a lot of other issues I care about, but these are the big ones for this election cycle. Make a similar list for yourself and evaluate the candidates based on your own criteria. The person you pick probably won’t get elected, but at least you’ll know that your vote went to a candidate who believed in the same things you do.