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Column: Key questions for us to answer

July 15, 2018

If we makes certain assumptions, we can develop questions which citizens and candidates for public office should answer. These questions and answers could help us decide which candidates deserve our vote.

One assumption is that our political system is broken. Extreme partisanship has polarized and paralyzed the Congress. Not much that matters to most Americans is happening in Washington, D.C. Congress is in a coma and has been for some time. We need to wake it up and demand that Members of Congress do what they are supposed to do: Pass laws that benefit the people they serve. No work, no pay, right?

My sense is that there is a great deal of insecurity and confusion in America these days. One person in authority tells us one thing, while another person in authority tells us the opposite. Some people are even skeptical of scientists and scientific research (such as global warming). What we are experiencing is an erosion of public trust across the board: politics, religion, science, education, business, the press, law enforcement.

How do we restore trust in our basic institutions? That is the question. The answer is, it isn’t easy – it’s complicated – and several things must be done. First and foremost, all our elected representatives, from the president on down, must tell the truth and not lie to us. Do we tolerate lies? Can we handle the truth?

Making the electoral system fair by banning large, secret, special-interest campaign contributions from big corporations and wealthy individuals, and by prohibiting the gerrymandering of legislative districts (i.e., drawing district lines to favor one party over the other), are two key reforms. Do we want fairer politics?

As an alternative to political reform, we should consider a multi-party system with proportional representation; such a system would have multi-member districts and ranked-choice voting, instead of the winner-takes-all and loser-gets-no representation system we have now. Currently, some states are safely red and some are safely blue, with very few contested elections – one-party rule, in effect. This is a big reason for our political alienation. Is a multi-party system an idea whose time has come?

In foreign policy, our government must cooperate with our allies and international organizations to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and use diplomacy, including economic and political means, to prevent war. The U.S. should not be the Lone Ranger; we cannot solve the world’s problems by ourselves, especially if we don’t want to pay the price. If our NATO allies pay more for their defense, shouldn’t we pay less?

Obviously, we need comprehensive immigration reform so the system is fair, accessible and enforceable. Separating little children from their mothers at the border, then being unable to locate and reunite them, is unacceptable and immoral. Isn’t it?

Domestically, we need sentencing and prison reform, measures to reduce gun violence, affordable health insurance for all, providing a living wage for workers and an economic safety net for poor people, strengthening Social Security and other retirement systems, repairing our crumbling infrastructure and dealing effectively with climate change. After years of neglect, we have a mountain of unfinished business.

Should we care? If so, then vote.

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