The Election Is About the Country, Not the Candidates

Citizens shouldn’t let the media make us forget about ourselves.


Judging by the amount of media attention they got, these were the most important political stories of the week: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders agreed to debate, but then Trump backed out, leading Sanders supporters to launch the #ChickenTrump hashtag. A report on Hillary Clinton’s emails came out. A poll indicated that the California primary is closer than previously thought. Trump’s delegate total went over 50%. Elizabeth Warren criticized Trump, so he began calling her “Pocahontas”. Sanders demanded that Barney Frank be removed as the chair of the DNC’s platform committee. Trump told a California audience that the state isn’t in a drought and has “plenty of water“. Trump accused Bill Clinton of being a rapist, and brought up the 1990s conspiracy theory that Vince Foster was murdered. President Obama said that the prospect of a Trump presidency had foreign leaders “rattled“, and Trump replied that “When you rattle someone, that’s good.” Clinton charged that Trump had been rooting for the 2008 housing collapse. Pundits told us that the tone of the campaign was only going to get worse from here; Trump and Clinton have record disapproval ratings for presidential nominees, and so the debate will have to focus on making the other one even more unpopular.

If you are an American who follows political news, you probably heard or read most of these stories, and you may have gotten emotionally involved — excited or worried or angry — about one or more of them. But if at any time you took a step back from the urgent tone of the coverage, you might have wondered what any of it had to do with you, or with the country you live in. The United States has serious issues to think about and serious decisions to make about what kind of country it is or wants to be. This presidential election, and the congressional elections that are also happening this fall, will play an important role in those decisions.

That’s why I think it’s important, both in our own minds and in our interactions with each other, to keep pulling the discussion back to us and our country. The flaws and foibles and gaffes and strategies of the candidates are shiny objects that can be hard to ignore, and Trump in particular is unusually gifted at drawing attention. But the government of the United States is supposed to be “of the People, by the People, and for the People”. It’s supposed to be about us, not about them.

As I’ve often discussed before, the important issues of our country and how it will be governed, of the decisions we have to make and the implications those decisions will have, are not news in the sense that our journalistic culture understands it. Our sense of those concerns evolves slowly, and almost never changes significantly from one day to the next. It seldom crystallizes into events that are breaking and require minute-to-minute updates. At best, a breaking news event like the Ferguson demonstrations or the Baltimore riot will occasionally give journalists a hook on which to hang a discussion of an important issue that isn’t news, like our centuries-long racial divide. (Picture trying to cover it without the hook: “This just in: America’s racial problem has changed since 1865 and 1965, but it’s still there.”)

So let’s back away from the addictive soap opera of the candidates and try to refocus on the questions this election really ought to be about.

Who can be a real American?

In the middle of the 20th century (about the time I was born), if you had asked people anywhere in the world to describe “an American”, you’d have gotten a pretty clear picture: Americans were white and spoke English. They were Christians (with a few Jews mixed in, but they were assimilating and you probably couldn’t tell), and mostly Protestants. They lived in households where two parents — a man and a woman, obviously — were trying (or hoping) to raise at least two children. They either owned a house (that they probably still owed money on) or were saving to buy one. They owned at least one car, and hoped to buy a bigger and better one soon.

If you needed someone to lead or speak for a group of Americans, you picked a man. American women might get an education and work temporarily as teachers or nurses or secretaries, but only until they could find a husband and start raising children.

Of course, everyone knew that other kinds of people lived in America: blacks, obviously; Hispanics and various recent immigrants whose English might be spotty; Native Americans, who were still Indians then; Jews who weren’t assimilating and might make a nuisance about working on Saturday, or even wear a yarmulke in public; single people who weren’t looking to marry or raise children (but might be sexually active anyway); women with real careers; gays and lesbians (but not transgender people or even bisexuals, whose existence wasn’t recognized yet); atheists, Muslims, and followers of non-Biblical religions; the homeless and others who lived in long-term poverty; folks whose physical or mental abilities were outside the “normal” range; and so on.

But they were Americans-with-an-asterisk. Such people weren’t really “us”, but we were magnanimous enough to tolerate them living in our country — for which we expected them to be grateful.

Providing services for the “real” Americans was comparatively easy: You could do everything in English. You didn’t have to concern yourself with handicapped access or learning disabilities. You promoted people who fit your image of a leader, and didn’t worry about whether that was fair. You told whatever jokes real Americans found funny, because anybody those jokes might offend needed to get a sense of humor. The schools taught white male history and celebrated Christian holidays. Every child had two married parents, and you could assume that the mother was at home during the day. Everybody had a definite gender and was straight, so if you kept the boys and girls apart you had dealt with the sex issue.

If those arrangements didn’t work for somebody, that was their problem. If they wanted the system to work better for them, they should learn to be more normal.

It’s easy to imagine that this mid-20th-century Pleasantville America is ancient history now, but it existed in living memory and still figures as ideal in many people’s minds. Explicitly advocating a return to those days is rare. But that desire isn’t gone, it’s just underground.

For years, that underground nostalgia has figured in a wide variety of political issues. But it has been the particular genius of Donald Trump to pull them together and bring them as close to the surface as possible without making an explicit appeal to turn back the clock and re-impose the norms of that era. “Make America great again!” doesn’t exactly promise a return to Pleasantville, but for many people that’s what it evokes.

What, after all, does the complaint about political correctness amount to once you get past “Why can’t I get away with behaving like my grandfather did?”

We can picture rounding up and deporting undocumented Mexicans by the millions, because they’re Mexicans. They were never going to be real Americans anyway. Ditto for Muslims. It would have been absurd to stop letting Italians into the country because of Mafia violence, or to shut off Irish immigration because of IRA terrorism. But Muslims were never going to be real Americans anyway, so why not keep them out? (BTW: As I explained a few weeks ago, the excuse that the Muslim ban is “temporary” is bogus. If nobody can tell you when or how something is going to end, it’s not temporary.)

All the recent complaints about “religious liberty” fall apart once you dispense with the notion that Christian sensibilities deserve more respect than non-Christian ones, or that same-sex couples deserve less respect than opposite-sex couples.

On the other side, Black Lives Matter is asking us to address that underground, often subconscious, feeling that black lives really aren’t on the same level as white lives. If a young black man is dead, it just doesn’t have the same claim on the public imagination — or on the diligence of the justice system — that a white death would. How many black or Latina girls vanish during a news cycle that obsesses over some missing white girl? (For that matter, how many white presidents have seen a large chunk of the country doubt their birth certificates, or have been interrupted during State of the Union addresses by congressmen shouting “You lie!”?)

But bringing myself back to the theme: The issue here isn’t Trump, it’s us. Do we want to think of some Americans as more “real” than others, or do we want to continue the decades-long process of bringing more Americans into the mainstream?

That question won’t be stated explicitly on your ballot this November, like a referendum issue. But it’s one of the most important things we’ll be deciding.

What role should American power play in the world?

I had a pretty clear opinion on that last question, but I find this one much harder to call.

The traditional answer, which goes back to the Truman administration and has existed as a bipartisan consensus in the foreign-policy establishment ever since, is that American power is the bedrock on which to build a system of alliances that maintains order in the world. The archetype here is NATO, which has kept the peace in Europe for 70 years.

That policy involves continuing to spend a lot on our military, and risks getting us involved in wars from time to time. (Within that establishment consensus, though, there is still variation in how willing we should be to go to war. The Iraq War, for example, was a choice of the Bush administration, not a necessary result of the bipartisan consensus.) The post-Truman consensus views America as “the indispensable nation”; without us, the world community lacks both the means and the will to stand up to rogue actors on the world stage.

A big part of our role is in nuclear non-proliferation. We intimidate countries like Iran out of building a bomb, and we extend our nuclear umbrella over Japan so that it doesn’t need one. The fact that no nuclear weapon has been fired in anger since 1945 is a major success of the establishment consensus.

Of our current candidates, Hillary Clinton (who as Secretary of State negotiated the international sanctions that forced Iran into the recent nuclear deal) is the one most in line with the foreign policy status quo. Bernie Sanders is more identified with strengthened international institutions which — if they could be constructed and work — would make American leadership more dispensable. To the extent that he has a clear position at all, Donald Trump is more inclined to pull back and let other countries fend for themselves. He has, for example, said that NATO is “obsolete” and suggested that we might be better off if Japan had its own nuclear weapons and could defend itself against North Korea’s nukes. On the other hand, he has also recently suggested that we bomb Libya, so it’s hard to get a clear handle on whether he’s more or less hawkish than Clinton.

Should we be doing anything about climate change?

Among scientists, there really are two sides to the climate-change debate: One side believes that the greenhouse gases we are pumping into the atmosphere threaten to change the Earth’s climate in ways that will cause serious distress to millions or even billions of people, and the other side is funded by the fossil fuel industry.

It’s really that simple. There are honest scientific disagreements about the pace of climate change and its exact mechanisms, but the basic picture is clear to any scientist who comes to the question without a vested interest: Burning fossil fuels is raising the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. An increase in greenhouse gases causes the Earth to radiate less heat into space. So you would expect to see a long-term warming trend since the Industrial Revolution got rolling, and in fact that’s what the data shows — despite the continued existence of snowballs, which has been demonstrated by a senator funded by the fossil fuel industry.

Unfortunately, burning fossil fuels is both convenient and fun, at least in the short term. And if you don’t put any price on the long-term damage you’re doing, it’s also economical. In reality, doing nothing about climate change is like going without health insurance or refusing to do any maintenance on your house or car. Those decisions can improve your short-term budget picture, which now might have room for that Hawaiian vacation your original calculation said you couldn’t afford. Your mom might insist that you should account for your risk of getting sick or needing some major repair, but she’s always been a spoilsport.

That’s the debate that’s going on now. If you figure in the real economic costs of letting the Earth get hotter and hotter — dealing with tens of millions of refugees from regions that will soon be underwater, building a seawall around Florida, moving our breadbasket from Iowa to wherever the temperate zone is going to be in 50 years, rebuilding after the stronger and more frequent hurricanes that are coming, and so on, then burning fossil fuels is really, really expensive. But if you decide to let future generations worry about those costs and just get on with enjoying life now, then coal and oil are still cheap compared to most renewable energy sources.

So what should we do?

Unfortunately, nobody has come up with a good way to re-insert the costs of climate change into the market without involving government, or to do any effective mitigation without international agreements among governments, of which the recent Paris Agreement is just a baby step in the right direction. And to one of our political parties, government is a four-letter word and world government is an apocalyptic horror. So the split inside the Republican Party is between those who pretend climate change isn’t happening, and those who think nothing can or should be done about it. (Trump is on the pretend-it-isn’t-happening side.)

President Obama has been taking some action to limit greenhouse gas emissions, but without cooperation from Congress his powers are pretty limited. (It’s worth noting how close we came to passing a cap-and-trade bill to put a price on carbon before the Republicans took over Congress in 2010. What little Obama’s managed to do since may still get undone by the Supreme Court, particularly if its conservative majority is restored.)

Both Clinton and Sanders take climate change seriously. As is true across the board, Sanders’ proposals are simpler and more sweeping (like “ban fracking”) while Clinton’s are wonkier and more complicated. (In a debate, she listed the problems with fracking — methane leaks, groundwater pollution, earthquakes — and proposed controlling them through regulation. She concluded: “By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.”) But like Obama, neither of them will accomplish much if we can’t flip Congress.

Trump, meanwhile, is doing his best impersonation of an environmentalist’s worst nightmare. He thinks climate change is a hoax, wants to reverse President Obama’s executive orders to limit carbon pollution, has pledged to undo the Paris Agreement, and to get back to burning more coal.

How should we defend ourselves from terrorism?

There are two points of view on ISIS and Al Qaeda-style terrorism, and they roughly correspond to the split between the two parties.

From President Obama’s point of view, the most important thing about battle with terrorism is to keep it contained. Right now, a relatively small percentage of the world’s Muslims support ISIS or Al Qaeda, while the vast majority are hoping to find a place for themselves inside the world order as it exists. (That includes 3.3 million American Muslims. If any more than a handful of them supported terrorism, we’d be in serious trouble.) We want to keep tightening the noose on ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and keep closing in on terrorist groups elsewhere in the world, while remaining on good terms with the rest of the Muslim community.

From this point of view — which I’ve described in more detail here and illustrated with an analogy here — the worst thing that could happen would be for these terrorist incidents to touch off a world war between Islam and Christendom.

The opposite view, represented not just by Trump but by several of the Republican rivals he defeated, is that we are already in such a war, so we should go all out and win it: Carpet bomb any territory ISIS holds, without regard to civilian casualties. Discriminate openly against Muslims at home and ban any new Muslims from coming here.

Like Obama, I believe that the main result of these policies would be to convince Muslims that there is no place for them in a world order dominated by the United States. Rather than a few dozen pro-ISIS American terrorists, we might have tens of thousands. If we plan to go that way, we might as well start rounding up 3.3 million Americans right now.

Clinton and Sanders are both roughly on the same page with Obama. Despite being Jewish and having lived on a kibbutz, Sanders is less identified with the current Israeli government than either Obama or Clinton, to the extent that makes a difference.

Can we give all Americans a decent shot at success? How?

Pre-Trump, Republicans almost without exception argued that all we need to do to produce explosive growth and create near-limitless economic opportunity for everybody is to get government out of the way: Lower taxes, cut regulations, cut government programs, negotiate free trade with other countries, and let the free market work its magic. (Jeb Bush, for example, argued that his small-government policies as governor of Florida — and not the housing bubble that popped shortly after he left office — had led to 4% annual economic growth, so similar policies would do the same thing for the whole country.)

Trump has called this prescription into question.

If you think about it, the economy is rigged, the banking system is rigged, there’s a lot of things that are rigged in this world of ours, and that’s why a lot of you haven’t had an effective wage increase in 20 years.

However, he has not yet replaced it with any coherent economic view or set of policies. His tax plan, for example, is the same sort of let-the-rich-keep-their-money proposal any other Republican might make. He promises to renegotiate our international trade agreements in ways that will bring back all the manufacturing jobs that left the country over the last few decades, but nobody’s been able to explain exactly how that would work.

At least, though, Trump is recognizing the long-term stagnation of America’s middle class. Other Republicans liked to pretend that was all Obama’s fault, as if the 2008 collapse hadn’t happened under Bush, and — more importantly — as if the overall wage stagnation didn’t date back to Reagan.

One branch of liberal economics, the one that is best exemplified by Bernie Sanders, argues that the problem is the over-concentration of wealth at the very top. This can devolve into a the-rich-have-your-money argument, but the essence of it is more subtle than that: Over-concentration of wealth has created a global demand problem. When middle-class and poor people have more money, they spend it on things whose production can be increased, like cars or iPhones or Big Macs. That increased production creates jobs and puts more money in the pockets of poor and middle-class people, resulting in a virtuous demand/production/demand cycle that is more-or-less the definition of economic growth.

By contrast, when very rich people have more money, they are more likely to spend it on unique items, like van Gogh paintings or Mediterranean islands. The production of such things can’t be increased, so what we see instead are asset bubbles, where production flattens and the prices of rare goods get bid higher and higher.

For the last few decades, we’ve been living in an asset-bubble world rather than an economic-growth world. The liberal solution is to tax that excess money away from the rich, and spend it on things that benefit poor and middle-class people, like health care and infrastructure.

However, there is a long-term problem that neither liberal nor conservative economics has a clear answer for: As artificial intelligence creeps into our technology, we get closer to a different kind of technological unemployment than we have seen before, in which people of limited skills may have nothing they can offer the economy. (In A Farewell to Alms Gregory Clark makes a scary analogy: In 1901, the British economy provided employment for 3 million horses, but almost all those jobs have gone away. Why couldn’t that happen to people?)

As we approach that AI-driven world, the connection between production and consumption — which has driven the world economy for as long as there has been a world economy — will have to be rethought. I don’t see anybody in either party doing that.


So what major themes have I left out? Put them in the comments.

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Comments

  • Anonymous Poster  On May 30, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Would the Supreme Court issue belong on this list?

    • weeklysift  On May 30, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      I think the Supreme Court is a factor in several of the themes I listed, but it matters in the way it affects other things, rather than mattering in itself.

  • Michael Wiseley  On May 30, 2016 at 10:43 am

    You left out a discussion of “trade deals” like NAFTA or TPP. Much of these deals are really about investor rights, patent protection, intellectual protection. Bernie Sanders and Trump have been calling into question the benefits of these deals and pointing to manufacturing outsourcing as a result of NAFTA. Trump has called into question trade with China, complaining about Chinese currency manipulation. Hillary Clinton seems to be pretty neo-liberal and rather status quo in her views on trade, and would probably tweak TPP rather than gut the idea. American protectionism can be traced back to founding fathers like Alexander Hamilton and can be arguably credited with significant expansion to US manufacturing capabilities after the revolutionary war. Without tariff protection, the US would have probably stayed a colonial economy that just exported raw materials to Europe and high value imported finished goods to Europe. Now that trade deals have lead to jobs outsourcing, it also puts pressure on any local unions because business can always threaten to move operations to Mexico and get the unions to cave in. One area of strong hostility that Bernie Sanders and Trump supporters have to Hillary, and the establishment, is the feeling of being sold out by trade deals that cost them jobs and don’t deliver on theoretical promises. It is a grave mistake to assume Bernie supporters will fall in line with mainstream Democratic thinking on trade just to avoid the lesser of two evils. When Bill Clinton (Mr. New Democratic) was elected, he took the Democratic party to the right so far on trade (and other issues like welfare reform, incarceration, and attempted to privatize social security) that he severely tainted the Democratic party as the party of the working people. Now the Democratic party is reaping what they sowed, with numerous working people lining up behind Trump and also Bernie Sanders, because they have lost faith in that mainstream Democratic party is backing their interests.

    • Larry Benjamin  On May 30, 2016 at 11:39 am

      Blanket opposition to trade deals ignores the fact that they work in both directions. On one hand, outsourcing manufacturing to China means loss of jobs here; on the other, consumers like their cheap Chinese goods. Our trade agreements with China also allow us to sell our own high-tech goods over there, which also means more jobs here. Trump’s and Sanders’ absolutist opposition to “trade deals” would result in China closing their markets to us.

      Like it or not, we live in a global economy. The problem is concentration of wealth, not that goods are produced in one part of the world at the expense of another.

    • weeklysift  On May 30, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      I don’t think it’s fully known whether the trade deals cost us jobs or not. What is known is that the jobs you gain are different from the ones you lose, and go to different people. Rolling back trade deals might also cost us jobs.

      • JJ  On May 31, 2016 at 10:35 am

        We could mitigate to problems caused by this if we were better at providing training to the people who loose their jobs. Like maybe there should be a provision that if a company wants to move their plant to Mexico or China, they have to cover all or most of the cost of their existing employees getting a degree, or going through a trade school.

      • Anna Helvie  On May 31, 2016 at 6:57 pm

        Trade deals costs us jobs. Come tour the empty textile mills of North Carolina, which comprise most of the Piedmont region. Talk to the people there who managed to find a little help getting educated to work in the burgeoning computer industry, only to find those jobs also outsourced to other countries. They are nearing retirement age, or are already retired, but their children and grandchildren are trying to piece together a living by juggling several part-time services jobs: Hardee’s at night, Food Lion in the morning, or Wal-Mart four days a week and maybe a couple of houses to clean along the side. It’s not a good situation.

      • weeklysift  On June 2, 2016 at 8:45 am

        But there are also jobs in export industries, and many of the lost jobs would have been lost anyway. The net impact on jobs is a complicated question.

  • Michael Wiseley  On May 30, 2016 at 10:52 am

    There are 2 or 3 risks going forward. Supreme court, nuclear war, and climate change. If Trump is elected, it might risk a conservative supreme court. That creates a set-back for many folks with social and civil liberty agendas. But even more serious is the risk of a status-quo win under Hillary Clinton that could provoke more war, or even nuclear war with Russia over continued meddling with the Ukraine. Long term risk on climate change is there and only Bernie Sanders (if congress would let him) has shown really strong views on abatement of Climate Change. So lets say you can have 1 or 2 items go your way but not all 3. I would rank nuclear war the highest because its deadly and immediate (even a conventional war is bad after you have 15 years of it). If folks back Hillary, they can potentially get a liberal supreme court but risk the nuclear war. If folks back Trump they potentially lose their chance for a liberal supreme court but see a non-interventionist foreign policy. In EITHER case, you get a terrible loss of civil liberties (Obama-Clinton implies more domestic spying? and he was already deporter in chief of illegal immigrants setting new records on that) and (but electing Trump takes the deportation issue to new highs). But — you potentially reduce or stop war (Hillary is a know war promoter with a track record, while Trump might be practical in his views, maybe). Under Bernie Sanders, you get better civil liberties, less war, and action on climate change. But if you can’t get Bernie, its all about risks. Trump and Hillary both have RISK if elected.

    • SCL  On May 30, 2016 at 11:15 am

      See, this is the problem. Overly fearful people spreading moronic conspiracy theories that people then believe. We’re not all as terrified as you, please don’t pollute the internet with stupid rants about things that will never happen. People act like the world is ending, and it is stupid.

    • Larry Benjamin  On May 30, 2016 at 11:40 am

      Why does everyone think Clinton is a war-lover? Granted, she made a stupid mistake in voting for the Iraq war, and her explanation – that she wanted war to be an option solely as a threat, not a reality – rings hollow. But compared to what Trump is proposing, Clinton is a tree-hugging peacenik.

    • weeklysift  On May 30, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      I’m not seeing the increased war risk. We made it through 8 years of Bill’s administration without a major war.

      Also, whether you wind up in a war depends as much on the other side as on you. If you seem too peace-loving, opponents might be inclined to see what they can get away with.

      One explanation I’ve heard of the Korean War was that some Truman administration spokesman left Korea off a list of regions we were willing to fight to defend. Then there’s an invasion, and Truman feels tested so he responds. I could picture such a scenario happening with Bernie and Ukraine: Putin thinks Sanders would never take a stand over Ukraine, so we wind up in a war.

    • aslowhite  On May 31, 2016 at 11:11 pm

      >(if Congress would let him)

      See, there’s the rub. What has Bernie Sanders achieved in Congress over the last 25 years? If he can’t do it as a legislator, how can he reasonably be expected to do it as the chief of the Executive branch?

    • Robin Sanders  On June 1, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      “If folks back Trump they potentially lose their chance for a liberal supreme court but see a non-interventionist foreign policy.”

      If Trump becomes president, that non-interventionist foreign policy will lead to world wide nuclear arms proliferation. And as the number of countries that have nukes goes up, the chances that one of them starts a nuclear war goes up significantly.

      • Larry Benjamin  On June 1, 2016 at 1:34 pm

        Trump is not going to have a non-interventionist foreign policy. It’s far more likely that we will be involved in a ground war with him than with Clinton.

  • 1mime  On May 30, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Equality in gender and race. Without this basis, nothing else matters.

  • Jeff Rosenberg  On May 30, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    A major theme is health care — our largest industry and a key to offering equal opportunity, financial stability, and compassion. While Clinton would continue to work under the rubric of the ACA, Trump would “Completely repeal Obamacare.” as “Since March of 2010, the American people have had to suffer under the incredible economic burden of the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare.” (From: https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions/healthcare-reform). While my preference is to move more aggressively towards a single-payor approach, the chasm between Clinton and Trump on this theme is — dare I say — huge.

  • Peedee Wyre  On May 30, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    While I would like to be able to say that it would be fabulous– huuuugely fabulous!!– always to have politicos tell the truth and stick to facts, “just the facts,” it apparently will never be so. Within the dreadful scenario of picking who lies less or whose lies are more acceptable, we have 2 candidates with “mostly true” statements vs one candy-date who never saw a lie and debunked conspiracy theory he didn’t love and adopt as his own… and they are all essentially TIED. YeGods, my fellow Americans!! Walt Kelly’s Pogo was right: “We has met the enemy… and he is us.”

  • Diana Whitney  On May 30, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    I feel this post does a very nice job identifying key questions of national interest and I appreciate you refocusing discussion on how the candidates, Donald Trump and (unless there is a last hour superdelegate coup miraculously staged by the Sanders campaign) Hillary Clinton, likely differ in their approach to each. But noting throughout this post “what Bernie would do” is not particularly relevant and, in my eyes, opens the door to yet more attacks on Clinton by disappointed Sanders supporters. Such (seemingly) never-ending, “Bernie-or-Bust” efforts characterize much of the “candidate-not-country news” you present at the start of this post: “Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders agreed to debate…Sanders supporters to launch the #ChickenTrump hashtag… a poll indicated that the California primary is closer than previously thought….Sanders demanded that Barney Frank be removed as the chair of the DNC’s platform committee…”.) And, already, in these comments, you can see how some continue to push Hillary-attack memes (such as “Hillary the hawk”) even going so far as to equate her policies with those of Trump.

    Like you I have (and do) agree with many of Bernie’s ideas and early on I was leaning towards supporting his candidacy as well. But given the past couple of months of the Dems primary: i.e. Sanders whining whenever he loses a contest (but not when he wins undemocratic caucuses,) his failure to denounce the negative and misogynistic behavior of his supporters in CA and NV, his “tone deafness” in discounting the votes people of color (as being “low information voters” in “Deep South” red states), his calling the most qualified candidate in decades “unqualified” in a fit of pique (“unqualified” as women have been called forever,) his courting of a debate with Trump, and his (fantasy) plan to “flip” the superdelegates into giving him the nomination (over the will – and votes – of primary voters)….well, now I’m actually relieved that he will not be the Democratic candidate.

    I agree that we need to focus on the questions that matter for our country going forward and am heartened that despite the unresolved-ness of the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton is focusing her efforts on defeating Donald Trump. I have confidence (well, hopes) that Mr. Sanders and his supporters will soon do the same.

    • Larry Benjamin  On May 30, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      Very well put. I voted for Sanders way back on Super Tuesday, when his insurgent campaign seemed to be addressing the issues of wealth inequality and globalization that Clinton didn’t seem interested in. Since then, Clinton has moved to the left, and Sanders has shown himself to be a petulant windbag with no idea how to implement the sweeping changes he is always talking about. It doesn’t help that he’s attracted a set of fanatical supporters that view him as the messiah. He was compared to Trump when he began his campaign and as time passes, the comparison is more and more apt.

      • aslowhite  On May 31, 2016 at 11:15 pm

        “petulant windbag” FTW! Well said.

    • aslowhite  On May 31, 2016 at 11:18 pm

      So well put, particularly with regard to his apparent attitude toward women.

      I recently saw a photo of Bernie when he was in college in the 60s, and I had a strong sense of deja vu…I know that guy. He was discussing the Revolution while telling his girlfriend to get him a beer.

      • weeklysift  On June 2, 2016 at 8:51 am

        As somebody who was born into white working-class culture and had to work his way out of a lot of the prejudices I now criticize, I cut Bernie slack for insensitive stuff he may have done in the Sixties. We all need forgiveness for something.

  • Kevin Davidson  On May 31, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Clean Water, Infrastructure degradation, Debt, (national, credit card, student loan)Trade agreements TPP , What color dress Obama’s are wearing.

  • Cathy Strasser  On May 31, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Very thoughtful post the identifies most of my hot-button issues. Beyond that, I completely agree with Diana Whitney’s post to the point that I might print it and hand it out to some of my Democratic friends.

  • Carli  On May 31, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    This is a great article! I think one issue you have left out and is getting attention in the media is the significant shift in people 85 plus in our Country. This is going to have significant demands for all services for Seniors which will create many job openings and a labor shortage like we have never seen. We need to raise national awareness and start planning for these changes now. Thank you for your thoughtfulness!

    • JW  On June 1, 2016 at 5:04 pm

      Good point raising the issue of services for seniors! This brings up the need to strengthen Social Security.

      • 1mime  On June 1, 2016 at 5:45 pm

        Strengthening social security is a Democratic imperative. It is definitely not a Republican priority. The Paul Ryan budget which received overwhelming approval in the House, slashes SS and medicare, making many changes that effectively reduce these benefits. It’s really all a matter of priorities – buy more planes or strengthen the safety net.

  • Chris  On June 9, 2016 at 1:40 am

    You note two problems:

    1. “Nobody has come up with a good way to re-insert the costs of climate change into the market without involving government, or to do any effective mitigation without international agreements among governments.”

    2. “As artificial intelligence creeps into our technology, we get closer to a different kind of technological unemployment than we have seen before, in which people of limited skills may have nothing they can offer the economy.”

    Actually, there’s one great proposal that solves both of these: a carbon fee & dividend (see http://citizensclimatelobby.org). Okay, technically this proposal does slightly involve government in the role of imposing the fee; however, since all revenues from the fee would be directly distributed to the people as a dividend, it doesn’t “increase the size of government.” And, the idea is that the fee would gradually increase until at some point the dividend would constitute a modest “basic income” that would then provide sustenance to people who were victims of technological unemployment.

    • weeklysift  On June 9, 2016 at 6:08 am

      I had not appreciated the way the two issues can be linked. As you note, though, government would have to institute and monitor the fee.

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