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September 16th, 2008
02:57 PM ET

The unbearable lightness of Election 2008

Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editor, The Nation

This should be a big election about big issues. The greatest financial crisis since the Depression. Soaring global debt. Collapsing public infrastructure. A broken health care system. Gilded Age inequality. Two disastrous occupations and a failing "war on terror." Yet, until Wall Street imploded this weekend, it seemed as if no one could move the 24/7 mainstream media beyond the trivial. Tired of talking about swine and lipstick, moose and baby bumps? We are.

That's why The Nation's lead editorial this week calls for an end to gotcha journalism and the politics of distraction and diversion. It's time to say, Enough! Let's refocus this election on what's truly at stake. To that end, we're laying out a series of questions in the magazine and at TheNation.com that we believe should be asked of both candidates–not only in the upcoming debates, the first of which takes place just one week from this Friday–but by a mainstream media that seems, well, "hell-bent" on reporting on the election as if it's a new hit reality show.

Here are some of the questions we'd like to see asked of the candidates:

  • The business-financial establishment and leading corporate-financed think tanks are leading a major lobbying campaign to cut people's benefits from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Will you promise to oppose these efforts?
  • The United States is hemorrhaging debt from its trade deficits – $700 billion a year – what is your plan to stop the bleeding?

Keep reading...


Filed under: Economy • Raw Politics
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Barbara Burton

    Indiana will be blue– count on it!

    September 16, 2008 at 10:47 pm |
  2. Carol, PA

    I for one hate the TV ads–I am getting so sick and tired of the baloney. Some may argue that negative campaigning goes way back in history, well it's time for a new era to begin. Do they really think people believe these ads? What an insult to our intelligence! Tell us what you're going to do for us. Stop wasting our time and your valuable resorces and get down to answering some serious questions. I'm outraged that there is even consideration to get rid of SS or Medicare.

    September 16, 2008 at 10:02 pm |
  3. Nancy in San Diego,CA

    I think that both parties are doing a great job in proving why neither of them are fit to run our country. With that being said, I must vote for one of them.

    After listening to McCain and Palin talk about possible strikes against evil empires, I have come to a conclusion. "A vote for McCain is a vote for war – possibly with Iran and Russia". I would rather have an increase in my personal income taxes than have to see thousands of young people die in a war.

    My vote goes to Obama.

    September 16, 2008 at 9:58 pm |
  4. Annie Kate

    Good questions – I hope we get some answers on them but I'm not going to hold my breath. I was hoping that we would get universal health care out of this election – heaven knows we need it for all the people who don't have insurance and can't afford to pay for their own medical care. At this point though in the election I don't think we will get much of anything from either candidate. Both of them need to take time out from slinging negative accusations and meet with economists and come up with a plan to help our economy.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    September 16, 2008 at 9:49 pm |
  5. Dave Evans

    "Gov. Palin has accomplished more as Gov. than Obama has in his whole life."

    Yeah, sure, came from poverty went to Harvard, Columbia, has a law degree, member of U.S. senate and was a black guy while doing it. Palin was a mayor of Wasilla (pop. 7,000) and needed 5 universities to just to get a journalism degree. The whole governor argument is a farce, the presidency is mainly about foreign policy, while the domestic policies of the US are the responsibilities of the House and Senate. Learn about your own government, the executive branch is not a kingdom, its main role is with the military and foreign policy. The people involved in this role need a different skill set than any governor.

    September 16, 2008 at 9:28 pm |
  6. James Feagans

    I have heard more good ideas and leadership from Obama
    on our need to improve our educational system then I have heard
    from all the Republican leadership put together. We will move
    foreward with speed never seen in the world once
    we have put these ideas and an inpirational leader who can keep
    us on a common mission together.

    September 16, 2008 at 9:13 pm |
  7. GAIL Centre,Al;

    Let's get real people, this country needs fixing, after 8 years of Bush. This country needs change and reform, needs expericence. Obama has none of the above.If he can't get anything done in the senate, he voted present 130 times, how do you think he can run the country. We need a new face, Palin is perfect. She's a maverick, a reformer, and can get things done. SHE has done more being Gov. then Obama has accomplished his whole life Get real people. Give me one accomplishment of Obama's and I'll vote for him. He creeps me out. He'll sell us all out if he's elected. Pelosi will be running the show, because somebody has to he can't. MCcain is pulling ahead of Obama in the electoral votes, Palin was the very thing MCcain's campaign needed. MCCAIN-PALIN 08

    September 16, 2008 at 8:53 pm |
  8. lampe

    I have a solution: Have CO-PRESIDENTS. One from each party, and they have to work together, and if they don't we just go out and find two more.

    September 16, 2008 at 8:49 pm |
  9. Barbara in NC

    I think the media is more at fault than the candidates. The media wants the headlines and the candidates want to be in the headlines. Just look at the subject in most of the ones currently posted on the ticker. Gossip, Innuendo, etc. Stop putting every little distraction on the ticker. Stop the gossip and innuendo.

    Please just give us the facts and we will decide for ourselves. JUST ONE DAY, stick to issues only. We can't control the media. You can control the gossip and innuendo.

    September 16, 2008 at 8:48 pm |
  10. mark hoffman, Phoenix AZ.

    I doubt you'll get a straight answer from either camp on those questions. Too much to lose.

    September 16, 2008 at 8:37 pm |
  11. James Feagans

    I think John Mccain will find a way to use a woman in order
    to get his way with anything he can. Whats new?

    September 16, 2008 at 8:31 pm |
  12. Sandy, Arkansas

    Get to the issues and the candidates proposed solutions – in specifics. Forget the spin, spin, spin and the attack ads and slanted journalism. I want some facts and not about the candidates personal lives – everyone has skeletons or problems there at some point. Hard times often provide good lessons. Mistakes often are the best teacher. This election, like the congress has been for years is falling into a juvenile fight – my way or no way...with no one thinking about what is best for American and American's but what is best for them. We used to not be so divided...we can't survive if we don't make some compromises and work together for the good of all. Let's not destroy our country and all she has stood for over the years.

    September 16, 2008 at 8:20 pm |
  13. jennifer jarvis

    I am fifty years old just lost my job and and my insurance I own my home, single mom with two children. I just lost two jobs in six months, I am calling the unployment tomorrow and telling them not to take out my taxes. P.S. I am from Michigan. Yeah we may need Sarah. Go get them.

    September 16, 2008 at 8:05 pm |
  14. RLBlack

    Here is the question- are you better off today than you were 8 years ago? Are your children better off? Is our healthcare system better. Are the schools turning out more educated folks? Is our nation on the whole better off? If you are great- vote for more Republican control- they like wars, oil companies, and the uppper crust. If you are not- either move to another country- or try a different administration.

    September 16, 2008 at 7:59 pm |
  15. JR - PA

    How can the media and many of the public keep giving McCain such light treatment on all of the misrepresented and false information he keeps shoveling? He was in Congress 26 years, on the Commerce Committee, admonished for "poor judgement" by the Senate Ethics Committee for association with an individual who cost American citizens billions, and is now the croney of former Senator Phil ("a nation of whiners") Gramm, the sponsor of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, known as the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 the source of the "Enron Loopholes" and the cause of the oil, mortgage, and banking crises. And McCain, by his own statement does not understand the economy, all evidence supporting that statement. Gramm is the author of McCain's economic policy..... Amercians .... What about this block of wood hitting you between the eyes, don't you understand? You cannot trust the Republicans because all they have done is mislead the country.... Don't continue this downward spiral?

    September 16, 2008 at 7:39 pm |
  16. Dave Evans

    Mary V., you got it spot on Ma'am. As a Canadian watching this election, I am profoundly shocked that the American people do not seem to grasp that in 8 short years the GOP has bankrupted the United States. This is THE issue, the rest of them all stem from this: Jobs, national economy, standing in the world, etc. Your nation is like a teenager with an unlimited Visa under republican rule. John McCain says he'll reform the GOP. He should reform, but not on the American's people's time and not with their money. They have they're own business to urgently attend to.

    September 16, 2008 at 7:23 pm |
  17. John

    Katrina and the ohter so called progressives are a bunch of hypocrites. If they wanted to follow a real candidate they would have gotten behind Ralph Nader or Dennis Kucinnich but they showed their true colors went they jumped on the bandwagon for a man such as Obama who panders to any group he talks to no matter if it is about the war, environment, or energy/. To hear her and the other so called progressives make me vomit!

    September 16, 2008 at 7:18 pm |
  18. Maria

    I wish they leisten to Obama from day one, when he objected Iraq war.
    By the away about the trillions US owe to Saudis and Abu-Dhabi and probably Dubai is called petrodollars and mainly re-invested in USA and it seems to be part of it lost with the falling economy, washed away.

    September 16, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
  19. Donna

    Shame on all the politicians. With the financial and weather problems our country is facing; they should have their heads together to figure out the best possible solution for AMERICA and it's people.

    September 16, 2008 at 6:08 pm |
  20. Mitch Powell

    I agree with Cindy from Georgia that the back and forth rhetoric has become tiresome; but I have to disagree with her on her speculation of how a "top of his class" candidate, would stack up against a "bottom of his class" candidate in answering the tough questions.

    Go back under your rock now, Cindy.

    September 16, 2008 at 6:08 pm |
  21. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    I agree that we should be focusing on the issues! But thanks the GOP they have distracted us, all.

    We need to be very concerned about our mounting National debt........of TEN TRILLION..... which we owe to the Saudis, China & Dubai! God help us if they call in the loan......we would lose our Nation! Don't be fooled, dear fellow Americans! We are in a heap of trouble!

    We need to talk about how we will get our 6% of Americans back to work! We have lost 600,000 jobs.

    But since the Republicans have been in charge for EIGHT YEARS, including the Congress from 1994-2006, the BUCK STOPS WITH THEM.

    THE WAR IN IRAQ IS STILL COSTING ALMOST $5 BILLION.......A DAY........ CAN YOU IMAGINE? WE DON'T HAVE THE MONEY TO DO WHAT MCCAIN WANTS...... "BOMB......BOMB........BOMB IRAN"!

    September 16, 2008 at 5:52 pm |
  22. nate

    Medicare and Medicaid should be a pay as you go. Its benefits should be guaranteed for those who are currently retired and those retirees who were born before 1950. For those born after 1950, those benefits should be pro-rated and other financial programs (in the private sector) should be promoted to help working class and middle class Americans invest to help subsidize their own lifestyles after retirement.
    To help stop our foreign debt, the US should demand financial compensation from the new Iraqi government (their estimated worth is 79 billion US dollars) and increase tariffs on imports. The US should begin exploration for new oil sources domestically and madate a minimum of 30 mpg for all vehicles except commercial. New alternative energy sources should be developed and new transportation technology like zero emission, fully electric vehicles should be promoted in the form of a significant rebate to help alleviate our dependency on foreign oil. There should be a school voucher program to allow parents the ability to pick the school of their choice for their children and close failing schools. The US should create new incentives to bring manufacturing back into the US from China and stop bailing out financial institutions which are stricken with heavy foreign investors.

    September 16, 2008 at 5:14 pm |
  23. Melissa

    I think it is great that more and more people are becoming aware of the avoid tactics approach that has become of our "Politics". Regardless of whether or not your are a Democrat or a Republican, the issues still remain the same. We need a government which helps us and gives us stability. The fact that we now see in terms of color is quite disillusioning, yes we have different ways of looking at each issues and that is one of our greatest attributes! How do we grow and change without different ideas? How will we ever learn from our past if we continue to act as though others who disagree are wrong or at fault?

    September 16, 2008 at 4:53 pm |
  24. tyree

    The issues are important but trust is more important. We have to trust a candidate to deal with our issues. The lies leveled at the minds of voters this election are astonishing. And why doesn't Palin have to say she kept Congressional money for the bridge to nowhere? She acts as if she said Thanks but no Thanks on the funding fo the project. And isn't it like fraud if you take govornment money for one thing, cancel the project and put the money to other use. I feel Defrauded as a tax payer.

    September 16, 2008 at 4:51 pm |
  25. leandre

    first isnt obama the one who passed up the job on wallstreet yet there is still a question who is better suited to fix the problems if we were talkin about flyin planesthen maybe mccain would be the answer and i guess we have to lose over 5 million jobs before mcain will admit this economy is screwed up i dont understand why he would say that again and poll showed obama up last time he said that . wake up america

    September 16, 2008 at 4:16 pm |
  26. Jim Robinson

    If anyone really wants to figure out who to vote for and get around all this political spin then tune into C SPAN and see for yourself what the Democratic Controlled Congress is really doing for the American People.

    September 16, 2008 at 3:50 pm |
  27. Brenda Harris

    They have to oppose it. The poor can not get any poorer.

    700 billion a year blood money for war. Will be ending soon. And we can redirect those funds. I may be able to turn in my 1984 Cadillac or my 1999 car and get a new one.

    September 16, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  28. Cindy

    I for one am extremely tired of the back and forth rhetoric. I wish that they would get back to the real issues at hand.

    Good questions by the way but I doubt you'll get a concise answer from UH UM UH Obama, well unless you give him the question before hand. McCain on the other hand will answer them all before you even finish the question. He is good at that.

    Cindy...Ga.

    September 16, 2008 at 3:19 pm |