We are being played. Politicians and interest groups are scripting our views and rhetoric. And, in the middle of this self-serving cacophony, the media plays along. Sex, violence and anger sell.
The scripts are written by people who trade in emotion. They are in the moment; the long-term health of our country is of only passing concern. They stir up fights over guns, radicalize the weather and feud over abortion. It is either all or nothing over and over again.
Division is their goal. Politicians and interest groups know: if they can make us mad, we will write more checks with their name on them. Their business model is underwritten by division. Sincere efforts to bridge differences is their enemy.
Let’s step away from the white hot issues for a minute and consider two questions that threaten to imperil future generations. After all, leaders are supposed to be looking up the road.
What would happen if a candidate said enough with this foolishness about incurring more and more debt and simultaneously created unfunded entitlements?
Can voters force candidates to lay out the irreversibles — the must haves — and spell out realistic cost and revenue projections that show the gap between projected revenues and costs? Should voters then expect revenue plans for meeting the shortfall? In short, can those deeply embedded in the political process step back and deal with priorities and the country’s long-term financial health.
Is there any constituency for such a candidate? Are there media outlets that would persist week to week in getting to the nub of the most important question we should all be asking? Keep in mind, a budget is a plan with numbers attached. The plans of candidates should matter.
I would suggest the same approach on what is increasingly a climate change battle between utopians and realists with some deniers thrown in.
The questions are fairly simple. Which activities that burn fossil fuels should be either terminated or changed structurally and over what period of time? Assuming that abrupt and dramatic changes in heating and cooling and transportation are not going to occur, what energy sources will replace the current ones and over what period of time?
And, finally. Regarding the new energy sources, what role should the federal government play in ensuring adequate, timely and affordable supply?
We are now on the edge of political hell. At the very least candidates for President should be very specific about how they will pull us back.
Closing note. In about a year President Trump will be on the ballot. In the meantime there are a lot of questions to be answered and his behavior is not one of the them. I have yet to meet anyone who thinks it is good.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.