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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Political Integrity and the Presidential Campaign

Looks like the campaign is set:   Obama/Biden vs. Romney/(Santorum?).

Now character and capacity are important in a candidate.  It is important to reflect on a person's integrity.  But I am more interested here in the integrity of our political system including the integrity of the campaign.


Mr Obama and Mr. Romney, could you stop any name-calling (e.g. "socialist" vs "vulture capitalist"), reject all statements that earn Pinocchios from the Washington Post or have not been fact checked through Snopes, not use broad characterizations that cannot be verified or falsified but are just designed to spur feelings of disgust and are simply ideologically pure to appeal to some "base" or "talk show host?"

Would it be possible to have a political campaign through which citizens are actually engaged in civil discourse about specific issues, about the shape of the political order and role of government that we need at this moment in our history, and about the direction we want to take not only as a nation but as human beings?

I think it is okay to be negative, but can you stick to the issues and quit personal attacks and broad unsubstantiated characterizations? Neither of you are evil or inadequate to be president.  In fact I will go so far as to say that both of you are very decent Americans concerned about our welfare as a nation.  And I don't care which of you I would rather have a (root)beer with.  But I do think you represent very different approaches to government (differences which have been with us for over 200 years).  The question is which approach do we want now?

Here are some of questions I suggest to be posed, discussed, and answered.  You will notice the questions are not ones of belief (which usually indicates a fixed ideology or religion) but of thought (which usually indicates deliberation, discussion, and education).

Do we or do we not think that a role for Government is providing a safety net to citizens in the areas of income, income security, housing, health, and employment?

Do we or do we not think that our Government should come to the aid of areas hit by natural disasters?

Do we or do we not think our Government should provide support for research and development in new and promising economic, health, energy, and scientific ventures where private investment is not sufficient?

Do we or do we not think our Government should use fiscal and monetary policy in controlling inflation and deflation, in softening the effects of business cycles, in regulating private banking and investment policies that can affect the health of the public?

Do we or do we not think that our Government should regulate private and corporate practices that relate to medicine, food, health and safety?

Do we or do we not think our Government should determine the morality and practice of birth control, homosexuality and same sex marriage, profanity and pornography, and define when human life begins in embryo?

Do we or do we not think that we are living in a multi-polar world, that the US is no longer the sole arbitrar of right and defense?

Do we or do we not think our government has a role in dealing with world conflict, securing fair trade, maintaining diplomacy, and a strong military?

Do we or do we not think that America needs to honor its commitment to Israel's security?  Do we think that both Palestine and Israel should be secure, free, sovereign countries?

Do we or do we not think that our nation should provide a path to citizenship for persons who have lived here a long time (eg 5 years) although without legal papers, worked here, raised children here, paid taxes here while at the same time stop the practice of illegal immigration?

Do we or do we not think that climate change is occurring, that human action in carbon emissions is contributing to climate change, that it could effect the human condition negatively, that we need to do something about it personally and collectively, that governments have an important role to play in this?

Do we or do we not think that economic disparity is a problem both within our nation and its cities and with the world, and that our government should play a role in dealing with it?

Do we or do we not think that government has a role to ensure non-discrimination related to race, ethnicity, religion, sex, personal sexual preference in public policy and in publicly supported or chartered and protected organizations?

Do we or do we not think that science and its method, rather than religious or cultural beliefs, should be used in determining what is real and in providing education?

Do we or do we not think that it is urgent that government support alternative energy production to diminish America's dependence on fossil fuels?

Do we or do we not think that America and its government needs to follow Christian beliefs in making decisions relating to domestic and foreign policy?

Do we or do we not think that civil service is an honorable profession, that public purpose (including community development and housing) can be served by non-profit organizations supported by government, that national government has a role in supporting cities that are in trouble?

Do we or do we not think that in general (outside of extreme crises) government should pay as it goes, that is collect sufficient revenues to pay for all its programs and administration?

Do we or do we not think that taxation should be progressive, i.e. be less of a burden on those who earn or have less?

Do we or do we not think that private corporations both profit and non-profit are vital to American democracy but should not be subsidized except through fairly awarded contracts to do government public purpose business?

Do you think that economic recovery and more jobs will be achieved by removing regulations from private enterprise and allowing them to hold on to more profits for investment or by government action to invest in infrastructure or some combination of both?

Do we or do we not think that wealthy special interest and corporate lobbying and contributions have too much influence in government and that SuperPacs need to be reigned in and held more accountable?

I would love to see these questions posed in NPR Newshour, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal along with your responses--as long as you want.  Then I want to see a team of respected political thinkers discuss them, make observations, and raise further questions in forums throughout the nation.

Of course, if we think that we should do something, how we do it is also fair game for questioning--as long as we recognize that the how is often worked out in a process of compromise and conciliation.

To my fellow citizens I ask: please add any other questions or suggest changes to these to make them more acceptable for thinking and deliberating as to who we want to be as a people.  And let's demand answers based on and challenged by thought.

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