After watching the Presidential debates, do you get the feeling that the candidates keep repeating themselves with prefatory phrases such as “My plan would do this and that. . . .” Why, of course, they are all going to keep spending down and hold the line on taxes and do something about the deficit and improve our educational systems and rebuild our “infrastructure” and get America moving again with more jobs and universal health insurance. The promises are thick and the factual content is thin.Yet thinner are the number of subjects or issues covered. Even when questioned by an audience of voters, the questions seem bound to the thinness of the public dialogue and media coverage that have been going on for months. The same questions come from talk show audiences as well.
I keep waiting for the inquiring reporters and audience to raise the matter of corporate crime. From banks to Wall St., from polluters to bribers, from consumer defrauders to theft of taxpayer monies, the Wall St. Journal itself, no less, has been reporting this crime wave for years. Why no questions? Why no debate? Because if the candidates don’t talk about it and the professional reporters don’t ask about it, a mimic syndrome seems to affect a random sample of voters in an audience not to raise the question.
This intriguing conformity applies to other issues as well. Questions about skyrocketing prices of medicines and the too frequent coverups by the drug companies come to mind. People write letters and complain about the soaring cost of drugs all the time. Once the debates or interviews with the candidates start, nary a mention of something the government can do something about. Certainly, the Canadian and Mexican governments have restrained these prices for drugs sold by the same U.S. manufacturers that are gouging patients in our country.
Notice how absent are any questions about energy policy. Big questions can be asked here. Coming out of a Gulf War that has more than a little to do with oil and that disrupted people’s lives and the economy in many ways, energy policy would seen to be a natural. With all the reporting about the Greenhouse Effect, acid rain, oil vulnerability, nuclear power and radioactive wastes, it seems strange to see it all wrapped in public silence.
Check out the biggest vacuum of all. If all the candidates recognize problems that they want to do something about and if these problems
reflect the grip of powerful special interests (as with the onrushing health insurance debacle), then from where are these politicians going to
obtain the countervailing power to overcome these special interests? It clearly isn’t enough to just want to apply solutions to such problems.It takes new citizen-based power.
Well, you can wait for a month of Sundays before you’ll see a candidate being asked: how are you going to mobilize the citizen power to overcome the power of special interests over Congress, government agencies, the media and so on?
If this question is not asked repeatedly, all you’ll be doing on election day is sending one candidate to the White House without any ability to deliver. The next President will simply become the next prisoner in the White House, surrounded by the lobbies that have assured the worsening persistence of many of the nation’s woes.
Ross Perot, at least, seems to recognize this point when he keeps referring to the people as the “owners” and to his belief that he cannot begin to “do the job” without the strong backing of citizens.Unfortunately, except for his desire to have regular electronic town meetings, he has not yet provided details for what may be called the new “tool box” of a modern democracy.
(For a copy of my proposed -democracy “tool box”, write to Concord Principles, P. 0. Box 19312, Washington, D.C. 20036 with a self-addressed, stamped envelope).