The 2012 presidential election is almost upon us. That’s good news and bad news, depending on your view. The good part is that all the craziness and attack ads and media scrutiny of every perceived misstep or gaffe will be over in about a month. The bad news is that in the next month, we will all be inundated with even more minutiae and contentiousness.
You know I’m a political junkie, but even I am getting weary and am ready to see this election cycle be over. So to keep my sanity between now and November 6, I’m focusing on where President Obama and Mitt Romney stand on the issues that are important to me as a parent, which is pretty much every issue they talk about, but here are the top 5 that I want to hear more from the candidates about as they launch into their official debates:
1. Schools and education – When it comes to the basics, the candidates’ websites speak for themselves. But I want them to go deeper. Romney seems to be about school “choice” and vouchers. Why does he prefer that approach over making a bigger commitment to making all public schools as good as they can be? Because what if you’re a parent who doesn’t have access to choice for where your child goes to school? Does that mean those kids are out of luck? And as for the president, he wants to strengthen schools and give teachers more flexibility to teach in ways that are best suited for a particular class of kids. Doesn’t that leave too much leeway for children not learning the basics? And if we’re still going to test our kids to make sure they’re learning, should we think about testing teachers to see if they’ve got what it takes to turn our children into learners and thinkers who can make their way in the world?
2. Social issues – Ever since Bill Clinton was elected as our 42nd president, we’ve heard the mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid.” And while that’s still true today, social issues have gotten a bigger spotlight this year — voter identification laws, same sex marriage, school lunch programs, reproductive rights, and more. I want both candidates to talk more about why they arrived at those stands. For me, the answer to the “why” question says a lot more about the candidate than the actual position.
3. Supreme Court – Supreme Court appointments are forever. Once a justice is on the court, he or she is there for life (if they choose). So what kind of justice a candidate would appoint is one of the primary things I focus on when deciding who gets my vote. Sound crazy? It’s actually one of the few things a president has almost complete control over. When it comes to legislation, the person sitting in the Oval Office is, more often than not, at the mercy of the Congress — as we all have learned well over the last four years. But the Supreme Court hands down decisions that impact everything from health care to whether our votes really get counted. For me, that’s worthy of consideration when choosing who should be in the White House.
4. College loans – As the mother of a seventh-grader, I like to pretend that we’ve got plenty of time to figure out the college question. My husband and I have been putting away money for our daughter’s college education as best as we can. But we know that no matter how much we put aside (unless we hit the Powerball lottery), it won’t cover all the costs of a four-year education. So summer jobs and college loans are certainly in the picture. They were for me and thank goodness for them — they helped me pay for college and law school. But Mitt Romney seems to believe that the government should cut back on federally subsidized student loans, and, as he somewhat infamously said earlier in the campaign, kids should just shop around and find a college they can afford. That was possible when I went to college “back in the day.” Now, not so much. As for President Obama, he believes that student loan repayments should be capped at a certain amount each repayment year to ease the burden and cut down on defaults. But then how does he make the numbers work on making loans available?
5. Understanding – Yes. I want to see and hear that the candidates really have some empathy for average American voters — the people’s whose support they need to win. That doesn’t mean a presidential candidate has to come from the same set of circumstances as me, but I need to see a certain ability to relate to those of us are going to decide their fate. And it needs to be genuine. It’s not about whether your world view was shaped by being born poor or by coming from money. For me, it’s about being able to see who the real person is behind the campaign stops and stump speeches.
We all know that the presidential debates are, on some level, pretty scripted, even if the candidates don’t know exactly what questions they’re going to get asked ahead of time. But my fingers are crossed that there will be one or two moments when we get a glimpse of the real men behind the talking points.
What are you waiting for the candidates to say during the debates?
Read more from me at my place PunditMom and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (A great pre-2012 election read!)
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Image by Joanne Bamberger. All rights reserved.