By Herb Bowie
It may be too early to know who will win on Tuesday, but it’s not too early to assess the major issues roiling the electorate and offer a few thoughts about what needs to happen after the voting is over – no matter who comes out on top.
People need to understand what their governments and corporations are doing, why they’re doing it, and what the results of their actions turn out to be. Simply saying that globalization and free trade and the tech boom will be good for everyone, in general, most of the time, is not going to cut it. We all know that there are winners and losers, and we need to be open and clear about what the trade-offs are, and what we’re going to do to provide a helping hand to those who end up with the short end of the stick.
Even though they have wildly different belief systems, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump generated the most excitement among US voters because they both came across consistently as their authentic selves, and because they both stuck to their guns. Voters need to know who they’re voting for, and need to feel that their elected officials are presenting a consistent face, no matter which audience they’re addressing today and no matter who is (or isn’t) listening. This has more to do with the basic human passions that motivate them, than with where they stand on particular issues.
We need citizens who are well informed on candidates and issues. We need someone to:
stand up and say that what passes for news programming today is in many cases simply mass entertainment concocted to boost ratings and make money for everyone except those watching;
point out forcefully that ill-informed voters are viewed as fruit ripe for the picking by special interests; and
offer a meaningful non-partisan mechanism for education on the issues, so that citizens can become better-informed, more discriminating voters.
As citizens, we must:
find new ways to listen to each other;
be willing to acknowledge the validity of each other’s perspectives;
abandon our all-too-well-defended positions that allow us to continue to lob insults at each other through social media;
wade out into this broad open area where problems are real, and solutions are uncertain: this is where meaningful progress happens.
Of course, we also need our elected officials to enter this territory with us. However, as citizens, we can no longer afford to wait for our politicians to lead us here – we need to take these steps ourselves, and then demand that our politicians follow.
Voters all over the world are becoming increasingly concerned that we are losing sight of what it means to be a citizen of a particular nation. For those who are well educated, with good jobs, working in major urban centers, and able to travel internationally, there is a feeling that we are becoming more diverse, more cosmopolitan, and more global, and that this is a good thing.
However, for those not in this elite status, people often feel as if they’ve been abandoned by their countries, left to suffer and die on the battlefield of progress, and are certainly not enjoying any of the elevated feelings of becoming part of a grand, global culture.
These are not sentiments that we can ignore and hope they will go away. Feelings about Brexit and Donald’s Wall are too strong too ignore and, even if the details of these proposals may not seem reasonable, the feelings of deep disenchantment behind them are all too real and must be addressed.
Let’s face it: as the size of our global human population continues to grow, we face three rapidly growing threats:
Depletion of non-renewable natural resources;
Extinction of species that make up vital parts of our ecosystem;
Environmental degradation, including global climate change.
If we are honest with ourselves and each other, then we must admit that there is no magic wand that we can wave – whether it’s made up of technology or policy – in order to make these threats go away.
Where does that leave us? With two realities that we must bravely face:
We must take reasonable steps to discourage further human population growth;
As the number of people at the table grows, but the size of the pie remains the same, we must do even more to make sure that the pie is being split equitably, and at least some of us must find a way to content ourselves with smaller slices.
What is it we want, for ourselves, for others in our society, and for our grandchildren? And how do we propose to obtain it? And what are we willing to sacrifice for it?
Without some vision of the future we want to fashion – and are willing to work together to create – it is hard to muster up much energy to accomplish anything of lasting value.
Again, both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump generated voter enthusiasm because they offered opportunities to participate in a cause, and not just to pick a candidate who represented the lesser of two evils.
After the election results are all in, and the results are clear and beyond further debate, then some of us will feel like winners, and others losers, just as we do when our favorite sports teams win or lose.
But it should be clear by now that this election cycle is about major social, economic and cultural issues that must be addressed – and not just about which party gets to occupy the seats of power for the next few years.
If we are sincere about wanting to see consistent forward progress for us as a society – and not just about wanting our side to win – then next Tuesday is not the end of the fight, but just the beginning.