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Editorial: What we still need to hear from candidates

Published: 1/12/2020 6:00:54 AM
Modified: 1/12/2020 6:00:11 AM

New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary is just one month away. The field of Democratic candidates has been halved, with 13 still in the running. Three men, including former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, are challenging President Trump for the Republican nomination.

The candidates, most of them anyway, have criss-crossed the state, held town halls and appeared in televised debates where they addressed complicated issues in two-minute bursts of speech. Are there issues that went unaddressed, questions unanswered, subjects that deserve to be discussed in greater depth? We think so and believe voters do too. Here are few of them, beginning with what we believe is the hardest one.

In 1979, in the depths of an energy shortage and spiraling inflation, then-President Jimmy Carter gave what came to be called “The Malaise Speech.”

“The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation,” Carter preached.

In time, oil flowed and the lines at gas stations evaporated, but Carter lost the 1980 election to Ronald “Morning in America” Reagan.

Do the Democratic presidential candidates believe the nation is suffering another crisis of confidence, another malaise, and what, if elected, would they do about it?

Life expectancy, while rising in many nations, declined in the United States in each of the last three years. Drug addiction and suicide are largely to blame, but they are the symptoms and not the disease. The disease, as Pulitizer Prize winners Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn noted this week in the New York Times, is despair. The root of that despair is societal and economic.

There are fewer jobs for those with little education and limited skills and far fewer that pay a living wage. With the loss of jobs, in factories, coal mines and farms came a loss not just of money but pride, dignity, hope and the ability to reject the drugs and alcohol that destroy families. Automation will continue to claim jobs. How would each candidate put people back to work and at what? How can displaced workers be directed to areas where help is desperately needed, caring, for example, for children and the elderly? How can such jobs pay a livable wage?

Many young Americans despair of ever living as well as their parents and doubt they’ll every be able to afford a home. Some doubt they’ll receive Social Security checks in their old age. Even more fear for the planet’s future and mourn the loss of the Earth’s creatures in what is being called the Sixth Extinction.

The young want from candidates not reassuring words but concrete actions. How bold would each candidate be in addressing climate change?

Voters are getting a good sense of where each candidate stands on immigration reform, infrastructure rebuilding, health care, tax reform, income inequality and measures to address gun violence. But what is each candidate’s view of America’s role in the world? How much should the nation sacrifice to promote democracy globally? How much to protect human rights? Has monopoly capitalism gone too far? Should the massive corporations that control so much of the economy be broken up? And how would each candidate, if president, govern? Who would their role models be when they choose cabinet members?

There’s more to know before the vote.

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