By ‘basic’, I mean the issues that lurk, largely invisible, beneath the surface of public discourse. Most people are aware of and angry about problems with our tax code, perceived weaknesses in national security, and the danger of static income levels paired with rising income inequality.
However, very few people are aware of the more basic issues: the complacency that underlies our economic woes; the inability of the three basic sectors of governance to cooperate and resolve issues caught in their intersector; the deleterious effects of racial, religious, and economic differences; and the role voters themselves play in allowing corporate interference in government.
What can be done to bring these invisible issues to light during this Presidential election year?
Of course, at least some of the candidates could ‘run the risk’ of speaking the truth, using their precious time to illuminate these issues and sparking open, serious discussion among candidates and voters. However, the truth is that the average person/voter has a very low tolerance for this sort of discussion; no matter how much people claim that they want real issues debated, there is very little drama in that and, though few like to admit it, most prefer drama to abstract concepts and technical details. To such discussions, the general public responds with a loud “BORING”! And the political pros all know that boring doesn’t win elections.
But maybe those self-proclaimed geniuses are at least partly wrong. They could be underestimating their candidates’ abilities to talk good common sense.
Here are a few slimmed-down examples of what could be said:
Our economic struggles cannot just be brushed off by blaming corporations, other countries, or our government. The truth is that America spent much of the twentieth century in a period of growth, which naturally led to some complacency and a sense that no one should have to change. Unfortunately, that complacency has led to a decline in our ability to redefine our economy and way of life in the face of a rapidly changing world.
Regarding issues caught in the intersector, candidates could explain that there is in fact an intersector where many problems can ONLY be solved with collaboration between the sectors and encourage voters to reach out to their neighbors and talk openly about what they can do together.
As for racial, religious, and economic differences, most people hate to be seen as racist or prejudiced, BUT a lot of people still have deeply hidden fears and dark ideas. Candidates should encourage more open dialogue about those issues. After all, the best disinfectant is sunlight.
Strangely, the widespread anger over votes being “bought and sold” fundamentally misses HOW this happens. People assume that votes in Congress are directly (if secretly) bought in a transaction between a corporation and a congressperson. That is not the case. What actually happens is that a corporation provides funds for or donates to a PAC that runs ads, often misleading, in service of a candidate’s campaign. The public is swayed by these ads and votes for the desired candidate.
Our campaign finance system is obviously rife with problems, but voters can make a more significant effort to determine whether or not something put in front of them is baloney before gobbling it down and urge their friends and neighbors to do the same. Complaining about the Kochs is okay but organizing against their influence would be more effective. And being certain that Citizens United is overturned is essential.
These are merely slimmed-down points to illustrate and suggest that these boring topics can be brought up quickly and clearly.
If we all, as voters, ASK enough questions about these more basic issues in town meetings and other similar venues, perhaps some of the better candidates might start talking sense, and this Presidential campaign may not be a total waste after all.