On the Debates…

On Wednesday and Thursday at the NBC-hosted debates in Miami, the Democratic candidates for President will be at their best – in the head-to-head contest to publicize their biographies and policy proposals, to distinguish themselves from others seeking the nomination and above all to win public acclaim!  They will especially seek the “viral moments,” the quick ripostes, the put-downs, and the “gotchas” that have made previous debates so memorable. 

But will they touch on the big issues that keep Americans up at night, or should?

The endless war on terrorism; the ubiquitous spread of social media, the disappearance of privacy and the spread of fake news; the perils of a debt-fueled economy; tensions with China; and perhaps the most urgent, climate change.

You don’t need to be a Democrat or a Republican to know that these are pressing issues, and that we are all in it together.

That’s why I’ve formed Renew America Together. We’re looking at the election process as a whole – how we pick our leaders in a competitive slug-fest that has huge implications not only for the United States but for the whole world.  While the candidates may mostly talk about “bread and butter” issues – like health care, jobs and wages, education, the rest of the world is asking: who will be the most reliable leader for NATO; who will stand up for the billions worldwide who seek a better life and look to the values and image of America as their best hope; who can best lead humanity to deal with the enormous challenges of the 21st Century?  

We hope the American public and our electorate can see through the spectacle of so many well-qualified and distinguished men and women on stage, pitted against each other and the moderators, to understand the more significant issues at play.  

The United States is the world’s premier democracy and has been on a 70-year pedestal of admiration from friends and attack by potential adversaries. However, today all over the world, people are asking, “is democracy the right system to bring humankind forward in the 21st century?”

They are asking- can voters, the average American, understand the difficult choices that run beyond personalities and incumbencies, that take decades to play out? Can Americans pick the right leaders?  Can Americans support wise policies? Can Americans rise beyond narrow self-interest?  

The challenges are manifold:  

-After almost twenty years, the United States is still at war with terrorists, with hundreds of thousands of troops deployed abroad.  Do we have the right policies and instruments to deal with this challenge?

-The internet and smartphones have made the world so small, and technology is still advancing rapidly – into 5G, and facial recognition, crypto-currencies, social media, artificial intelligence, fake news…how do we capture the benefits of advancing technology without sacrificing our privacy, our security, our economy and the very essence of our humanity

– The economy has continued to grow, but it is perilously fueled by debt, and the distribution of wealth and income has grown increasingly inequitable. Big companies get bigger, start-ups and innovators are often smothered, and the great visions, like those which government has in the past supported – the interstate highway system, the space program – seem increasingly unattainable. Americans and foreign visitors alike ask, why can’t America fix its bridges, tunnels, and airports? How will America address, its endemic poverty, failing health care and public education systems, and combat systematic racial discrimination?

– China is moving to dominate the world economy and creating new institutions to replace those America created in our image some seventy years ago. How can America handle a country with four times the population, two or three times the annual growth rate, bustling with ambition, and supercharged with determination to reclaim its historic role as the most advanced and wealthiest of nations? Will it lead to war?

– And the most profound challenge of all: can we transition a 200-year-old dependence on carbon fuels into new energy sources which are sustainable and can lead us into a carbon neutral and even carbon negative environment to preserve the climate and ecosphere which has nurtured humanity for ten thousand years? How do we replace billions of automobiles and millions of trucks- changing the means of transportation, agriculture, power generation, industrial production?

For the American voters, and for humanity, we are hoping that the candidates will answer such questions as these, and demonstrate that in a democracy, men and women can still bring big dreams to life: a fairer, and more equitable society, more innovative, more sustainable, with freedom, opportunities, and justice for all.

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