It is profoundly disturbing as we near the end of an interminable, disgustingly ugly, and shamefully expensive presidential election that the issues dominating the debate center on Donald Trump’s and Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct.
We actually face serious challenges in this country, many of which are complexly interlinked, so that action to solve one set of problems can trigger potentially unanticipated negative consequences for other problems. Challenges we aren’t talking about, listening to, or attempting to address:
The technology-driven global economy has dramatically and irreversibly changed everything: markets, the application of economic theory, the nature of competition, and the meaning of productive work. It’s as profound a seismic shift as the rise of an automobile-dominated society in the early 1900s, the growth of the industrial age in the 1700’s, or the discovery of the new world in the 1500’s. What we should be talking about is how do we as a nation, invest in educational resources in order to ensure that American workers are the most efficient, productive workforce in the world, with the skills to compete in the new industries and markets emerging in this new global economy.
Global warming is real (sorry Koch brothers and Exxon/Mobil). Its consequences – some of which we’re experiencing now, some of which we can reasonably anticipate – threaten our financial stability and the quality of life of millions of Americans. Human beings contribute to the problem. That means human beings can also act to mitigate the problem. But we can’t do that if a large portion of elected officials refuse to even acknowledge the problem exists and needs a solution.
We live in a newly dangerous world. We are getting dangerously closer to drifting into a “hot” war with Russia. Vladimir Putin is not a nice guy. He’s a ruthless, ambitious dictator. His ambition is to restore Russia to the status of world dominance once enjoyed by the society that raised him: the Soviet Union. We have to deal with a nuclear-armed loose cannon in the madman who rules North Korea. And we are experiencing unprecedented upheavals in the Muslim world driven by radical fanatics who want to destroy the institution of democratic rule and replace it with their malignant distortion of Islam. The historical answer to Hitler was a war that cost the lives of over 60 million people, 57% of whom were civilians, and over 400,000 American servicemen and women. The historical answer to the threat of the Soviet Union was a carefully-managed nuclear standoff. We have no clear answers to the threat of radical Muslim terrorism because it’s an utterly new, unprecedented threat. But at least we need to elect a president who acknowledges and understands the existence and implications of these threats.
Our government is broken. Bernie Sanders is right. It has become corrupted by money. Newt Gingrich gets the dubious distinction for having changed the work of congress from deliberating on and enacting laws to address the needs of the American people to pimping for money from mega corporation and the super wealthy. The trade off: mega corporations and the super rich get the laws they need to continue in power; Congress continues to reap the benefits of a plush job, with few real responsibilities, no accountability, rich benefits, and a great pension. The political dialogue is now dominate by ideologues who care more about the triumph of their extreme views than the well-being of all Americans.
America is a diverse country. It always has been. (It’s ironic that people with names like Trump, Guliani, Cruz, Ryan and Lewandowski are so opposed to immigration. Go back in their family history and their parents or grandparents would have been called “Krauts, Wops, Spics, Micks and Polaks.”) Pretending we can go back to the world before the 18th (and 15th) Constitutional Amendments when white men made all the rules is a narcissistic, misogynist fantasy. We are pluribus. We need to step up to the tough challenge of creating unum.