Now It Begins – Keep Your Eye on the Prize

This Week the Iowa Caucuses Start the Election Season. Let’s Keep Some Factors in Mind


And So, It Begins

About the time you read this, the Iowa caucuses will be history. In the matter of a few hours some campaigns will be exuberant, some will be relieved, some will face hard reality. So, too, is it for we who are supporters and voters. Things will happen quickly from here on out. New Hampshire is only days away, followed by South Carolina and Nevada. The last five rounds of debates will come just as Super Tuesday is upon us.

This is the Time to Remember a Few Things

Doing so will serve us well in the months ahead.

  • In a field this crowded, it is a challenge for anyone to stand out as a star. If you feel you are not inspired by anyone, it might well be because the bench is so deep. A lot of good people are running for president. In a matter of weeks, it likely will be down to a very small handful, maybe even one. Just keep in mind that while everyone has their downsides, this is a good list to draw from.
  • Be wary of social media attacks by Russia (especially since Trump sees no need to call them on this) and others. These are often very subtle and sophisticated efforts, often appearing to be from a source you might agree with on the issue at hand. Beware of any post that seems designed to enrage, separate, to swift boat a candidate, or to pick a fight.
  • We’re picking a president, not someone our daughter might marry. Be at peace with the warts and shortcomings of the eventual candidate. Celebrate the good stuff, help them overcome the bad.
  • If you haven’t done so already, take the pledge. Support the nominee. At least one of the leading candidates worries me enough to stay awake at night. I truly hope he does not get the nomination. But if he does, its him or Trump. Sitting it out is a false choice. I will be in, will do the work, will make the contributions. Because this country cannot afford four more years like the last four. I hope you will do the same.
  • “We are the big tent party.” Everyone loves to say this. The challenge is to live it.
    • Even the Republicans say it on occasion, but that is a lie that no longer fools anyone. For all practical purposes the Republican party is a right-wing cult of personality that is mostly rural, disproportionally under educated, almost exclusively white and senior, and extreme evangelical. That is not America and that is not a formula for long term health, but they have made their choice. If there are principles it stands for, damned if I can find them. They have more in common with Russian policy than with America’s.
    • The Democratic party is far more diverse in every category. That is not a boast, it’s a demographic fact. It’s also a challenge to work with such a mosaic. Election success for Democrats means finding some common ground and some willingness to compromise with others. Statements by those like Rep. Ocasio-Cortez that there is no progressive party if it has room for Joe Biden or that there is never any excuse for anyone to be a billionaire doesn’t help. The blue wave that was 2018 was built on more moderate, more centrist candidates. That will be the path to victory, and governance, going forward.
Let Us Count the Ways

Perhaps most important, keep in mind that at the level of core issues all the leading candidates agree on the essential elements on which they would govern. There are surely issues of disagreement, but they are more on how than what. Those differences are important, but they should not cripple unity. For example, my read is that all the leading candidates, even the whole field, agree on the following top 10:

  1. Climate Change – No real disagreement here that the crisis is upon us and it is existential. Some push to rejoin the Paris Treaty, others to go beyond it, but all agree this is a defining issue, perhaps the defining issue, of our time. We can only hope the calendar has not run out on our options.
  2. Universal Health Care – Most candidates now support something like Medicare for All Who Want It or a smooth transition to Single Payer. So do most voters. At this point, only Sanders is supporting a complete changeover all at once.
  3. Expanded Affordable Childcare and Early Education – An investment in families that pays off socially and economically.
  4. Help with College, Trade School Costs – Basically everyone is on board on this. A couple of candidates at this point only support college assistance, a couple want to make all college free for everyone, but the logic of some means testing and including more than college is strong and likely to carry the day.
  5. Restore Our Alliances – Every candidate agrees we are more vulnerable than we have been in many years because this government has trashed our alliances. We are no longer seen as reliable, even less as a leader. Getting this fixed and working in concert with others is a priority for all the candidates.
  6. Protect Reproductive Freedom – Candidates are uniform in their support for a woman to make these decisions, supported by others, but not dictated by government or anyone else. The Roe vs Wade decision, at some risk now, seems wiser every year in its balanced trimester-based approach on choice and responsibility, to individual liberty and societal interests.
  7. Sensible Gun Laws and Regulations – All the Democratic candidates are where the vast majority of Americans are on this one. 2018 demonstrated that the NRA grip on politics is weakening. More than a few candidates who won in 2018 ran specifically against the NRA.
  8. Restore Environmental Protections – Connected to the climate change issue, but more broadly based than that. The Trump administration declared war on conservation, national parks, and stewardship of the land. All the Democratic candidates are committed to reversing those decisions and getting the policies codified in law, not just by Executive Decision.
  9. Fairer Taxation – Everyone agrees the wealthy and corporations have had a free ride, not to mention big bonuses of late. All the major candidates have proposed specific tax changes in the trillions of dollars to begin addressing this imbalance. The idea of a wealth tax, vs an income tax, is not universally supported by candidates (only two of the leading candidates advocate for this particular policy) but it remains exceptionally popular with voters.
  10. Campaign Finance Reform – All the candidates seem to agree that the current environment is corrupting our politics, perhaps fatally. Only Steyer has made this a leading issue, but all are on board with the idea that better legislation and an empowered Federal Elections Commission is essential. Thanks to the most relevant Supreme Court decisions, a constitutional amendment may be required, but the issue will not go away.
Let’s Get to It

There are, of course, other issues of agreement and common understanding, but these seem to me to be the core for a winning platform and good governance that the nominees all support. Have I left off any you think should be on the core list? Let us know.

Don’t forget to vote and vote early if you can.

Then go back to work in support of the primary winners at every level. Those at the state and local levels affect your life at least as much as those at the national level.

      Bill Clontz

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