On Aug. 6 a debate will be held among the top 10 of the 16 current Republican candidates for president in 2016 selected on the basis of their poll scores. At no time in recent history has there been as many persons seeking the office from either party.
The difference between the selection dynamics between the two parties could hardly be more disparate and is almost unfathomable. For the Democrat party the selection of its nominee has already virtually been made. But for the Republicans the proliferation of candidates has made the the prediction of the likely nominee a problematic guess.
With a national debt, which will approximate $20 trillion at election time, with an economy that has recovered at a disappointingly slow rate from the recession condition prevailing when Mr. Obama won office and contracting in 2015’s first quarter, and with record highs of Americans who have withdrawn from the workforce and of persons who are receiving federal assistance, the economic issues arising for our next president are profound. And the social and foreign policy issues are similarly vital.
Yet, polls show that a majority of American voters have already decided that they will vote for the candidate of their party. To someone who prefers to believe that selection of the candidate is better than reliance on a party label that position is an abandonment of citizenry duty.
Debates are an important element of a political campaign. They provide the opportunity for voters to learn about the candidates. They offer insights as to the ideology of the candidate and his or her plans and personality. Many of you have limited interest in what Republican candidates wish to say. But it is the only real opportunity that we may have before the candidates for each party are nominated to be exposed to the issues that will drive the election. But the debate will not reach its potential to present insights unless the questions addressed to the candidates are geared to the key issues, incisive and difficult to evade.
For example, immigration policy will surely be a major issue. There is broad agreement that our borders should be secured. But It would be interesting to hear the responses by 10 candidates to the question “Assuming our borders are closed, what specifically would you do as president and seek Congress to do to reform our immigration system?”
Or similarly on Obamacare, which has never received majority public support, the question could be “Do you want to see the repeal, the amendment or the continuance of Obamacare? If you seek repeal or amendment, what specific plan do you have to provide health care to Americans?”
For a solidly blue state such as Hawaii it is probable that most of you view without much enthusiasm what the campaign positions of Republican candidates are as they are most unlikely to affect the outcome of the 2016 election here in Hawaii. But we all should care about the future of our country.
If we fail to inform ourselves about the principal issues we are confronting and the course candidates believe we should be taking our votes may not reflect the action that would best preserve the well-being of our society domestically and our standing and security in international matters.
It would be welcome if before the primaries start we could have a debate among the candidates for the Democrat nomination, but I doubt that will happen. For voters who believe that elections matter and who would like to educate themselves on the people and issues involved it will most likely not be until after the candidates have been nominated that there will be any face-to-face discussion between representatives of the two parties.
In the interim, for those who want to be conscientious citizens regardless of your location on the political spectrum you should exercise your opportunity to hear the views of the Republican candidates and hope that the questions directed at them by the moderators are incisive and will allow you a clear identification of their positions on the major issues on which a meaningful election should be based.
Walter Lewis is a retired attorney who lives on Kauai and writes a regular column for The Garden Island.