Is it really just about the economy?October 17, 2012
If you didn’t watch the Presidential debate last night, you’ll have read or heard that the pundits are awarding President Obama a narrow victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. I’m not sure how much that really matters. Both men debate well enough to be President – no revelations there.
What struck me, though, was the degree to which President Obama and Governor Romney both focused on the economy to the exclusion of everything else. That was undoubtedly attributable in part to the questions they were asked, but even questions that had nothing to do with jobs, the economy or taxes somehow circled back there. That tells me that both candidates’ analysts have concluded that American voters care only about their own pocketbooks and have instructed the candidates to focus their rhetoric accordingly. If true, that’s incredibly sad.
Yes, times have been tough, and far too many people have been un- or under-employed for far too long. But there are social issues facing our nation that matter regardless of their economic impact. It’s important for kids to get a decent education not just so they can get jobs, but to grow them into thoughtful, compassionate human beings. It’s important to revamp Social Security and Medicare not just to keep expenses down, but because vulnerable people may need those benefits for many decades to come. We have to develop alternative fuels not just to make energy less expensive, but because fossil fuels do lasting environmental damage and we owe it to future generations to leave the planet in livable condition. We need to strengthen relationships with other countries not just for purposes of international trade, but so we can remain a credible advocate for peace and justice in international circles.
Although President Obama and Governor Romney agree on some issues (and it was refreshing to hear them admit it), this election represents a clear choice between two candidates of widely divergent social philosophies. I wish they’d both stop banging the money drum for a while – after all, the economy will recover sooner or later – and talk more about their respective visions for American society. And, as long as I’m making wishes, let’s add one more. I wish Americans would vote this year not only with their wallets, but with their consciences.
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