A smart question asked and unanswered in last night’s Republican Presidential debate was “What do you like least about America?”
If the GOP and it’s candidates can’t identify the problems, how can we reasonably expect them to solve them?
This is exactly right. People sometimes act like the act of criticizing is unpatriotic on some profound level. If you watched the recent Bill Moyers Journal on the media in the runup to war, you were reminded how that rhetoric was used to suppress dissent between 9/11 and March 2003. That’s how we got the Patriot Act and the Iraq quagmire.
When I criticize, I do so because I want this to be not just the best country in the world, but the best country possible. Anyone who thinks we are there has no place in politics, because politics should never be about stasis.
People vote for change. If the country is already moving in the right direction, they vote for the change that’s going on (see 1996). If it’s going in the wrong direction, they vote against the incumbent (see 2006). If you can’t say what you’d change, you won’t get elected. But that’s only what’s wrong with the surface of Romney’s reaction – “I’m at a loss for words.”
The profound problem is that there really are problems. Income inequality is growing. Children are trapped in households without health insurance, which dooms them to a lifetime of ill health and poverty. Pets are dying from imported food supplements. Our climate is warming. Our cattle are at risk for BSE, but only a handful are tested for it. Children are graduating from high school without being able to read and understand a newspaper. Companies are choosing to build factories in Canada because of the universal healthcare and the educated workforce. The Gulf Coast is still trying to recover from Katrina.
Our ports are still not secure, but we can’t bring a water bottle onto an airplane. Our troops are dying and getting wounded in Iraq, and the support services for them and their families in the US are an insult to the flag and the uniform. The government is illegally spying on citizens’ email and phone calls. We are spending billions on supersonic stealth fighters several generations more advanced than any other nation’s air force; meanwhile, our troops are fighting guerrillas armed with IEDs and AKs.
Any one of those is a serious and solvable problem. No one deserves to be President if he can’t think of even one of those on a moment’s notice, and talk about it in a way that is uplifting. We can do better, and we must do better. We have the skills, we have the knowledge and we have the resources. We just need a leader to step forward. Bob Dole was derided for wanting to build a bridge to the 19th century, but at least he wanted to do something.
In the Democratic debates, there was agreement about some problems, and thoughtful discussion about how to solve them. What would it cost to make and keep a promise of universal healthcare? Where would the money come from? How do we maintain regional stability in the Middle East while reducing our losses in a war that’s lost meaning? What policies will block climate change and grow the economy?
Hard questions got serious and inspiring answers in the Democratic debate, and they’ll get serious attention in a White House occupied by any of the major Democratic candidates. Will any of the current Republican candidates even notice that a problem exists?