The Common Good

Ten Reasons Why This Election Should Be About Issues and Not Personalities

The presidential tickets in this election on both sides of the aisle have lots of "personality;" some of the candidates have even been referred to as "rock stars." John McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis has said that "this election is not about issues, this election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates." That has been widely interpreted as a prediction that the election will be about personalities more than about issues. That would be a tragedy. And some on the Obama side were perhaps hoping that their candidate's charisma and popularity would be enough. But those qualities won't be enough and shouldn't be. Here are ten reasons why.

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  1. The economy is in grave danger. Over the weekend, two more of the nation's top investment banking firms have gone down. Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, and Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America. With the earlier demise of Bear Stearns, that's three out of the nation's top five investment banks who have not been able to weather the financial storms triggered by the subprime lending crisis. Analysts this morning say this is either the beginning of the end of the crisis or the beginning of the end. The stock market looks like it fears the second outcome. Ordinary Americans are worried about college and retirement funds and, much worse -- a downward economic spiral that affects most all of us. We need more than personalities here.
  2. "Poverty is now our next door neighbor." That's what a hospital administrator said to me during my annual physical last week. With foreclosures, declining housing equity and opportunity, job losses, stagnant wages, and lack of affordable healthcare, more and more people are being affected. And, of course, those at the bottom are in the worse shape of all.
  3. Globally, the progress we were making on international poverty has been seriously set back because of food and fuel prices. Untold numbers of people are facing starvation.
  4. There continue to be about 1.3 million abortions a year. Partisan shouting on both sides during election seasons has prevented our finding solutions that result in real abortion reduction.
  5. A broken immigration system is resulting in more and more raids on workplaces, breaking up thousands of families. How can we create reforms that are compassionate and just along with protecting our borders?
  6. Global warming is shrinking the polar ice cap at an unprecedented rate, more plant and animal species are endangered, and weather patterns are becoming erratic and more dangerous. How can we stop and reverse climate change?
  7. The war in Afghanistan has gone on for seven years now, yet the situation on the ground is getting worse by most accounts. The war in Iraq has gone on for more than five. Some claim progress and others say the underlying issues remain unresolved. Both those who want "victory" and those who say we should "end" the war must show their plans for success. There are other wars now threatening in places like Iran and Syria. How many more wars can we fight at one time? The military is severely strained, especially service men and women and their families. And those veterans who come home needing so many things are not getting them.
  8. We are no closer to a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, still a critical factor in Middle East conflicts.
  9. The conduct of the United States' war on terrorism has taken a great toll on America's standing in the world. The use of torture, the abuse at Abu Ghraib, the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo and secret prisons around the world have all taken their moral toll. There needs to be a plan to repair the nation's moral stature.
  10. The great danger of nuclear proliferation continues unabated. And even the pleas of national security wise men, from both sides of the aisle, have not been heeded.

And because each of you has other crises you think should be added (I can think of another ten easily), it becomes more and more clear that voting on personalities this election would be irresponsible. It's time to focus on the issues, the records of the candidates, and their plans for solving the massive problems that we face. That will be the subject of my blog posts between here and the election -- and what a more "prophetic" than "partisan" Christian witness might be. Stay tuned.

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