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The Real Issues in the 2016 Election

There are only three to issues to consider in the 2016 Presidential election and these are tied to the candidates as much as to the issues. Number 1 is whether radical changes, such as Medicare for all and free public college tuition, are possible within the United States, both in terms of passing them in congress and paying for them, over the next 4-8 years (the Bernie Sanders issue). Number 2 is whether a country in which Wall Street and wealth continue to control policy making and our foreign policy remains focused around the idea that the U.S., in the person of its military must take the lead in solving the problems of the Middle East will make any inroads in reducing income disparity or will  make us safer (the Hillary Clinton issue). Number 3 is whether a person who supports bigoted positions, such as banning Muslims from entering the country, who has clearly done little to educate himself about foreign policy and who voices naïve and prejudiced opinions, such as that Oakland, CA and Ferguson, MO (both with large Black populations) are more dangerous than Baghdad, Iraq, can make decisions, as president, that don’t jeopardize the entire country.

In a nutshell, these are the issues of the current presidential campaign and the issues voters need to address in making a decision about for whom they should vote. Of course there are more characteristics of each candidate which may also affect opinions: Bernie Sanders has only a vague foreign policy position, Hillary Clinton has made what many would consider foreign policy blunders with regard to invading Iraq and supporting the overthrow of Gadhafi in Libya, Donald Trump does not take human-produced climate change seriously. And there are many more sub-issues. But the stark differences are those listed in the opening paragraph, above.

Despite the clear differences between the three candidates who are still running for president within the major political parties, most of the discussion among voters and by pundits does not relate to these issues. Instead, what happens among the electorate is name-calling, exaggerated and tenuous insinuations about each candidate (Sanders wants to turn the U.S. into a Socialist/Communist country that replaces capitalism and private enterprise with a government controlled economy; Clinton wants to further the gap between the rich and poor and reduce safety net programs in order to please corporate interests, for whom she is only a proxy in their control of the country; Trump is a racist who believes in the White Christian dominance of this country as espoused by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan). Instead of a careful exploration of to what extent the major differences between the candidates would be likely to produce the outcomes people either want or fear if each of them were elected, the debate has devolved into either inside-baseball conversations about whose strong ground game strategy beats whose strategy to appeal to independent voters through large rallies (the mainstream TV pundit conversations) or which exaggeration about which candidate can incite the largest reaction (the internet and left or right fringe media conversation).

The three candidates still campaigning have real differences related to some major characteristics of their approaches that bear close examination and not either affirmation or dismissal with easy to make generalizations that befog the realities of the candidates’ positions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these major differences were examined with seriousness and genuine curiosity to arrive at the truth instead of the political conversations we have at the moment. I don’t see any sign of this on the political horizon.

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