In fact "issues" can not be placed neatly into boxes; they are interconnected, complex, amorphous. New permutations arise without warning. Conflicting facts and statistics abound. Different constituencies press in various directions. There may be many valid or plausible approaches to addressing a specific problem. At the same time, for many problems there are no simple solutions. Resources are limited. It may be easier simply to ignore a problem, to offer a sound bite, or to mobilize support for a quick fix, rather than addressing the situation head on. A solution may itself have uninintended consequences.
The federal government cannot solve all problems; indeed the Constitution sets out a limited role for the federal government. Progress depends as well on state and local governments, businesses, civic groups, religious institutions, and most importantly committed citizens working to improve the community and the country. Indeed many problems are best handled at the local level, but the people who are most familiar with the situation. Conversely, with globalization, issues increasingly cross national borders, necessitating cooperation among governments of different nations.
The expertise, experiences, and philosophy of the various candidates determine how they frame the challenges facing the country. Interest groups will seek to interject their particular issues into the debate, which is as it should be. For news organizations operating in a pop culture world, providing interesting and enlightening coverage of issues is a very difficult and challenging but essential task. Ultimately, however, it is the responsibility of citizens to see to it that their concerns are addressed. It behooves voters to get beyond the rhetoric and soundbites or the relative likability of one candidate or another and consider the merits of the ideas the candidates are advancing.
The United States faces plenty of issues, big issues, with profound consequences on our quality of life. For starters here are resources on eight issues likely to play an important role in 2008:
Defense and National Security
"Politics is Broken"
The United States faces myriad complicated and interrelated challenges. How do candidates reduce this big set of challenges into manageable issue areas? One can learn much from how a candidate frames "the issues," including the areas they choose not address. Candidate websites provide unlimited space for a candidates to lay out their positions in minute detail. How well do they make us of the space? Do they outline their records and specific programs and proposals, or do they resort to rhetoric and glittering generalities? Is the issue section just a straight list, or is there an effort to provide a degree of interactivity, for example through video clips or printable pages or even a more creative approach? Does anyone even read the issue sections, or are voters more interested in a candidate's character and persona? 5/26/07
Republicans | Democrats
Brookings Institution: Opportunity '08
Nov. 15, 2007 press release
|Copyright © 2005, 2006 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action|