In this (U.S.) political season, it is easy to focus on the minutiae of policy and character differences between the various candidates for president and other offices. We should not, however, lose sight of the greatest issues that confront us; and we should evaluate our politicians based on how well they will deal with these issues.
Here, in no particular order, are the issues I think should take front-and-center stage in our deliberations:
- An economy awash in debt and headed for deep recession, if not depression
- The predations of neoconservative ideologues bent on accelerating consumption through economic exploitation of the world’s population
- A broken health care system whose costs could eventually overwhelm most citizens, as everyone seeks the best care possible, even at the expense of the most basic care for others
- A growing cadre of religious extremists, Christian and Muslim, engaged in a no-holds-barred war for the cultural domination of the planet
- Depletion of energy resources which could literally cause our global economy to sputter to a halt
- Massive changes in the natural systems that support Earth’s biosphere, brought on by our exponential generation of waste, which are contributing to species extinction rates that haven’t been seen in 65 million years
At the root of most of these issues is people’s desire to control or use everything – and everyone – they can get their hands on. Our prospective leaders will either serve this desire or attempt to rein it in. Those who serve it are promoting death; while those who don’t offer a chance to promote life.
From this lofty perspective, it’s hard to draw much of a distinction among the candidates and their parties. All appear to be pandering to our fatal desire, offering one set of quick fixes or another without appearing to grasp the core of the problem. If there is a distinction, it is that Democrats want to use government to even out the distribution of wealth throughout the population while Republicans want to focus on increasing the overall amount of wealth and let the economic equivalent of natural selection determine the distribution. Another, relatively minor distinction is the means by which the parties would prefer to increase per capita consumption, the physical manifestation of the desire that’s killing us: Republicans embrace predation, whereas Democrats would rather people work together to acquire what they want and need.
What is most likely to happen is that politicians will be elected with agendas that project current trends, and be forced to consider more rational ones as realization dawns that those trends must radically change, in ways they can now scarcely imagine. Which of the candidates will best adapt to this new knowledge and be most likely to turn it into effective action? This may be the most practical question to ask ourselves as we prepare to vote.