The last presidential election that focused squarely on issues was the 1972 Nixon-McGovern campaign. Since then campaigns have spent more time and money framing their opponent than dealing with issues. Without honest discussion those campaigns fail us in making informed decisions about where the candidate stands. There are six key issues those who want to be elected should address after taking office.
The first and most pressing is the economy and unemployment. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney talk about the topic but both stop short of telling us how they will put people back to work. Just cutting taxes or adding more government programs isn’t sufficient to show how to fix this big problem. Where are the jobs? We want to know who will create them and what is needed to do so.
The second and equally important issue is healthcare. Our current healthcare system is unsustainable. Most agree the Affordable Care Act isn’t all we would want, but if you get beyond the political rhetoric this bill offers some positive steps. More is needed and we want political candor and sound solutions. Then we must face public education reform. Once the envy of the world there is solid evidence we need twenty-first century technologies, a more rigorous curriculum and a renewed emphasis to keep us competitive. We can do better and we must, so instead of the tired old talking points let’s hear some honest suggestions.
In North Carolina those three issues are imperatives, but there are others. Our state simply must stop avoiding our aging and inadequate public infrastructure. We need roads, water and sewer systems, schools and other amenities. Why aren’t candidates willing to acknowledge and tell us how they will meet these needs? If population projections are remotely accurate North Carolina must also face up to increased energy demands. Limiting this topic to a debate about natural gas fracking stops far short of addressing future energy needs.
When all is said and done what we are looking for is leadership – men and women unafraid to face today’s realities and present sound plans for addressing our needs. One thing most all polls reveal is that North Carolinians believe our state is headed in the wrong direction.
Kerr Scott had the Good Roads Plan. Luther Hodges championed The Research Triangle. Jim Hunt’s plans included biotechnology and microelectronics. In the not too distant past elected leaders have advanced higher education and clean water, but for whatever the reason recent political leadership has been more content nibbling around the edges of problems with few bold initiatives and leaders in business and others sectors have been unwilling to demand more of them.
The time for floundering is over. Our issues are too big for timid leaders. We are smart enough to understand that bold plans might require more from us, perhaps even new taxes, but we are also intelligent enough to understand that what we are doing isn’t moving us forward to a better future. A good start would be positive solutions for the six big issues facing North Carolina today.