The candidates’ views – in their own words

 

What is truth? Who do you believe?

Those aren’t easy questions to answer in today’s social media-crazed society, where everyone is a journalist and even more of us have an opinion on any issue out there.

In this atmosphere, we will determine the next president of the United States later this year. The primary and caucus season starts in less than two weeks.

President Donald Trump is the incumbent Republican, and as much as I’d like to see a challenger for him in the GOP primary, I don’t see that happening. No one is planning for his impeachment trial to be successful, so let’s just assume he will fill the Republican side of the presidential ballot in November.

So, in preparation for the upcoming primary election and caucus season – beginning with the Democratic caucus in Iowa on Monday, Feb. 3 – let’s take about a week to learn what makes the top candidates tick.

In their own words. Not from debate sound bites only on certain issues. Not from social media supporters or critics.

I researched the six candidates who participated in the last Democratic debate on Jan. 14, and added Michael Bloomberg and Andrew Yang. Those seem to be to be the top eight candidates still in the running.

I spent a little time on each candidate’s campaign web site to find where he or she stands on issues important to him or her – in their own words. Some have exhaustive explanations on numerous issues; some discuss only a few causes. Others offer short discourses on a few issues and lengthy tomes on others he or she is passionate about.

I will highlight the issues in each candidate’s own words. As the editor of this blog, I’ll condense for clarity. If you wish to find further details, I’ll provide the campaign web site for each of them.

Most of the candidates have harsh words for President Trump and for his policies. For this exercise, I’ve eliminated that. Tell me what your plan is. We’ve heard enough rhetoric and criticism. Tell me what you’re going to do about it.

Also, several of the candidates are better preachers than many preachers are. I’ve kept that to a minimum as well. My primary format is bullet points listing the candidates’ stances.

I’ll use an old newspaper technique to remain objective when profiling multiple people: I’ll highlight them in alphabetical order.

So, where does each candidate stand on the issues of our day? Let’s find out. In his or her own words. Each candidate gets his or her day:

 

Joe Biden on Friday, Jan. 24

Michael Bloomberg on Saturday, Jan. 25

Pete Buttigieg on Monday, Jan. 27

Amy Klobuchar on Tuesday, Jan. 28

Bernie Sanders on Wednesday, Jan. 29

Tom Steyer on Thursday, Jan. 30

Elizabeth Warren on Friday, Jan. 31

Andrew Yang on Saturday, Feb. 1

 

I have no idea who I will vote for when the time comes. I lean toward certain candidates; others make me cringe; still others I don’t know much about.

That’s the point of this project. Who, in general, supports the positions you or I support?

Don’t expect any candidate to line up perfectly with all your views. Which issues are non-negotiable for you? Hopefully you don’t have too many of those, or you may have trouble voting for anyone.

Let’s choose our Democratic candidate wisely, with a clear mind and calm heart. After all, that’s how we want our leaders to lead.

Don’t we?

How to take back our country from politicians

Here in Ohio, I wish far left U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and very far right U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan had lost in Tuesday’s election (I voted that way so I can say that, right?).

That would have sent a clear message across the United States: We’ve had enough with partisan politics. Let’s learn to get along with each other again.

It didn’t happen, of course.

Brown, first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, received 53.2 percent of ballots cast. Jordan, serving since 2007 and founding member of the Freedom Caucus, received support from 65.4 percent of voters who cast a ballot in his U.S. House district.

Nationwide, Democrats regained control of the U.S. House and Republicans kept their dominance in the U.S. Senate. We’ll see how that plays out in the next two years.

National politics gets an awful lot of attention, far more than local politicians and tax issues do, which is too bad, really.

Locally, there weren’t any surprises in the political races.

Opioid issue defeated

Voters across the county decided quite a few tax requests, some renewals and some new millages. Results were mixed. A tax to fund a local opioid recovery program, for example, was defeated, 52 to 48 percent. That surprised me. Opioids affect all of us in some way, either with people we know who are affected by it or by the crimes addicts commit to finance their habit.

Is drug addiction an illness or a disease? Are individuals responsible for their habits? I think this played into the issue’s defeat. Rather than trying to help those who suffer, no matter how it began, we choose to blame them for getting addicted in the first place.

Prevention is the ideal, yes. But how to do that?

Volunteering at school

On another issue, the local school district renewal passed; I was glad to see that. I’m passionate about supporting our local public schools.

Not everyone is. I talked with a good friend who sent his now-grown children through Christian schools, and said he rejected all tax requests – including for schools – because he wishes the state offered vouchers so he wouldn’t have to pay for public education. Instead, his education dollars could be re-directed to a private school of his choice.

I don’t agree with him on this issue. Jesus wouldn’t either, in my opinion.

Jesus met the needs of people right where they were. He spent time with children, drug addicts, outcasts, immigrants, church leaders, politicians – all types of people. He didn’t create a separate church or school where he taught or expected children to attend. He preached on hillsides, yes, but then he sent everyone home. Be a Christian right where you live, he told them.

Public education in this country is available to all. If parents choose to send their children to a private school, that’s their choice. They should pay for their choice.

And private schools, including Christian-based schools, face the same social issues – bullying, teen pregnancy, drugs – that public schools do.

The vast majority of our nation’s residents can’t afford a private education or the transportation to get there, even if they wanted to send their children to one. Instead, we need to support our students and teachers – all of them. We need to give them the resources they need to do their jobs well, then hold them accountable for that.

Since my children also are long beyond the 12th grade, it’s easy for me to sit back and point fingers at those directly involved in public education. No. I need to get involved, and I do. I’ve been mentoring elementary school students for about a decade, even though we’ve lived in three states during that time. A couple of mentoring programs I’ve participated in have disbanded. I keep searching for another one.

I began doing this at Stone Elementary School in Saginaw, Mich., across the street from the church we attended. That was a low-pressure lunchtime program where mentors played a game or two and ate lunch one-on-one with a student.

When we moved to Rockford, Ill., I found a mentoring program within two months. In that program, I read with second-grade students for an hour in 15-minute segments, in the classroom. The teacher sent me students who needed the most help with reading. As a journalist, that was right up my alley, a win-win for everyone.

Here in northeast Ohio, I’ve served through several programs. One at Midview schools in Grafton disappeared after a year. The next one in Cleveland schools disbanded this summer. I recently found an elementary in Lorain, the next town over, and am just getting to know a fifth-grader there. And through our church, several of us are mentoring high school students in Lorain as well. That’s something new for me, but I’m excited about that too.

Instead of complaining about how our public schools are failing, let’s get involved. Locally, we can make a difference.

Reducing the influence of politicians

If your passion is visiting the sick in a hospital or spending time with drug addicts or pregnant teens or another issue, there are ways to offer support and encouragement. Such programs need money, yes, but they also need our involvement.

The one irrevocable asset we possess is time. Once it’s gone, we can never get it back. Let’s make it count.

Money? We can earn more. Politics? We get another chance every two or four years.

Giving money and voting for people and causes we believe in are important, of course.

But they aren’t enough. Let’s do something with our lives. Choose an issue or two you’re passionate about and make a difference.

We talk about taking back our country from the politicians. This is how we do it. We as citizens must take control of our own lives, and of public life as well.

One student at a time. One opioid addict at a time. One struggling marriage at a time. One pregnant teen at a time. One cancer victim at a time. One veteran at a time. One hungry child at a time. One lonely neighbor at a time.

Et cetera, et cetera.

Open your eyes. Opportunities are everywhere, literally.

Enough with the conservative-liberal hatred. Let’s change lives instead.

One person at a time.

Beyond Donald and Hillary: The votes that truly matter

While the presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gets by far the lion’s share of political headlines, there are many other races and issues on the ballot in November.

It’s easy to forget that.

The local and state votes are as meaningful – I would argue, more so – than who becomes our next president.

What condition are our roads in? Is the local school district seeking a renewal or an increase for technology, new buildings or general expenses? What about House and Senate seats, both statewide and national?

I see some judgeships on my ballot, too. If you’re like me, you don’t know much about those candidates. Time to do a little research.

Here in Ohio, there’s a U.S. Senate seat up for election that’s almost as contentious as the presidential race. The incumbent, Republican Rob Portman, and the challenger, Democrat Ted Strickland (a former governor), are waging high-profile, often mud-slinging campaigns, and have been for months. (Actually, many of the most vicious ads are paid for by PACs and not by the candidates themselves. That’s worth noting.)

I’ll be glad when the election is over for more than one reason.

The smartest candidates, especially in their radio ads (since I’m on the road a lot, I listen to the radio several hours a day), don’t even say what party they represent. They tout their stance on an issue or two important to them, often in a positive way.

I wish TV ads were modeled after radio ads. They’d be much more productive.

Local candidates

Our local newspaper recently published its election guide. That’s a great place to begin your research of the candidates and issues in your area. Ours was done in a Q-and-A format, allowing each candidate to answer specific questions in his or her own words. I can judge for myself how well each candidate responds.

We also can see which candidates did not take the time to respond.

That actually is more of an issue in the local League of Women Voters guide, available at local libraries, social service agencies and senior centers.

I was surprised. You’d think the League of Women Voters would be as impartial as anyone. Why not accept the free publicity?

You also could visit www.vote411.org and enter your street address to get a “one-stop shop” for election related information. This works in any jurisdiction across the country.

In Lorain County, Ohio, you also can visit the Board of Elections site, http://www.loraincountyelections.com/, for lists of candidates and issues. In Saginaw County, Mich., where my family lived for 27 years, check the county clerk’s elections page, http://www.saginawcounty.com/clerk/elections.aspx.

The League asked challenging questions, such as: “What should the federal government’s top three priorities be in setting a sound energy policy?”

Or, for a state House of Representatives race, how about this one: “When the Ohio legislature takes up the state biennial budget next year, what if any changes should be made to how funding is allocated between traditional public schools, charter schools, online schools, and state funds to nonpublic schools (including vouchers)? What accountability standards should be required of such schools that receive state funds?”

Answers to those types of questions offer good insight into the minds of our candidates.

Local issues

There are several dozen issues in our voters’ guide. Obviously, many of them are specific to certain communities, so I won’t get to weigh in on a lot of them, but countywide issues and local requests in my jurisdiction are topics I need to know about.

For example, my county is seeking a small sales tax increase to be split between the transit authority and the county general fund. Worth supporting? I need to decide.

I’ve seen numerous yard signs for Issue 35, an addiction services levy. Heroin and opioid (pain-killer) addictions are severe problems around here, and, in the words of our election guide, “The county is asking for help in funding local drug addiction recovery centers as the need is outpacing the support available.”

That issue impacts more lives in this county than who our next U.S. president will be.

At least two neighboring jurisdictions are seeking levies to stabilize funding for firefighters. Worth the cost?

There are a half-dozen or so school levies on ballots across our county. One is a countywide renewal for a career technical training school. I’ll also get to vote on a local school bond issue (Issue 23), in which our district is seeking money to build new elementary and middle schools. The district plans to reduce the number of buildings and replace aging, outdated structures with state-of-the-art schools in strategic locations around the city. If we approve, the state will pay the lion’s share of the costs (those are tax dollars too – we can’t forget that), but the local share will be significant.

The school district has made its case. Am I buying it?

As voters, we need to do our homework on behalf of the schools.

Making a difference

Who will we elect as our next president? That winner will dominate the headlines on Nov. 9, no doubt. But addiction services and local schools will have a more immediate impact on our lives.

And a longer-term impact, too.

Hillary and Donald, neither of you is as important as you think you are. You’ll be around for four years, maybe eight, and that’s all (unless your spouse gets elected too). Local issues preceded you, and they will outlast you.

Get out of our way, actually. Let us live our lives. And tell the U.S. Supreme Court to lighten up, too.

We have more important issues to worry about.

Like how our children are going to be educated. And which roads will get repaired next.

Happy voting. See you at the polls.