Ranking of Issues the Next President Should Take On

I’ve been following the debates and the news on the Democratic candidates for President pretty closely.  The debates have been just OK for addressing the issues that I think the next President should focus on when she is elected in November 2020.  I’ve noticed that, occasionally, polls will come out with what issues Democratic voters care about.  I’ve never been included in one of those polls and I like to make ranking lists, so I thought I would take a shot at putting down in writing what I think the most important issues should be.  Here you go!

  1. Run the government well.  This feels like the opposite of what conservatives would want.  No drowning the government in a bathtub for me.  No acting heads of agencies.  I think this is the most important thing that the next President should do.  I don’t need gimmicks about how ever agency will try to cut fraud, waste, and abuse out of their budgets.  Any serious campaign, to my mind, should have a list of potential cabinet secretaries and chiefs of staff ready to go.  Get them vetted and on board your campaign as soon as possible.  Get on the same page with them and allow them the appropriate amount of independence to run the agencies.  Pick people who will focus on the mission that you’ve set forth in your campaign (hopefully that is good governance).  Be a pro federal worker candidate.  They’re not the deep state, they’re technocrats who know how to make the government work for the people of the country.  Technocrat is not a bad word.
  2. Have a plan for executive actions and regulation.  Any candidate who wants my vote should prioritize executive action and regulation in their first 100 days.  It’s all well and good to say we’re going to win the House and the Senate and we’re going to pass all of these plans that you’re running on, but you can make the biggest difference by undoing the damage that Trump has done.  Reinstate the environmental regulations that he has hobbled.  Bring back DACA.  Return the CFPB’s focus to one that works for consumers, not banks.  I think it was Senator Harris who said something about using DACA as the stick and carrot to get immigration reform passed.  She said she would tell Congress to get something done in the first 100 days or she was going to take executive action.  More of this on the campaign trail, please.
  3. Have a plan for judges.  And I don’t mean just Supreme Court nominations.  The abortion question should not be a proxy for your judges plan.  Just as with the cabinet, the nominee should have a list of potential candidates for all levels of the judiciary.  The list of potential judges shouldn’t just come wholesale from some advocacy group, as was done with the current President.  And return to nominating only judges who are considered highly qualified by the ABA. I’d like to see someone come out in support of radical change to the Supreme Court.  Be in favor of term limits or packing the court.  Maybe opt for rotation of justices off the Supreme Court.
  4. Climate change.  You’ll notice that the first three issues on my list aren’t in the vein of traditional issues that candidates like to talk about.  They’re not just the first things a new Democratic President should do, in my opinion, but they’re fundamental ideas that the President should hold closely to throughout her presidency.  Climate change is the top issue that a President should address with Congress.  Hopefully, the President is using the EPA and the rest of the governmental agencies to address climate change.  I like Cory Booker’s view that everything should be viewed through the lens of climate change.  And, yes, do everything you can as President to push a climate friendly agenda in your executive actions, regulations and picks for the cabinet and judges.  But I want to see a President act like climate change is the existential threat they all claim it to be.  While you’re working on the governance part of this issue, get something moving in Congress.
  5. Corruption.  I’m putting Senator Warren’s signature issue in at this point.  I think the idea that she’s pushing to reform how Washington works cuts across a lot of issues, including my thought that governance should be the first thing a President does.  You could almost include this in my first bullet, but I’m with Warren and so I add this as a separate issue here in my ranking.
  6. Voting rights.  I’d love to see a candidate go all in on House Bill 1 from the current Congress.  In the wake of the current President trying to rely on foreign help for his election and reelection, I think a bill that focuses on voter access, election integrity, election security, and political spending are very important.
  7. Foreign affairs.  Part of this issue is probably covered by #1 on my list here with how the President should have a National Security team in place that will be on the same page with the nominee.  Get the State Department staffed up and rely on your diplomats.  It’s probably too much to hope that one of the nominees will promise not to give ambassadorships to donors, but that would go a long way with me.  Have a plan to get the troops out of Afghanistan and FOLLOW THROUGH.  You’re going to have to go against the generals here, but that’s just what needs to happen.  If Trump has started a war on behalf of Saudi Arabia, you’ll end it.  Come out in favor of the idea that we don’t need to go to war to defend Saudi Arabia.  And restore our standing with our allies and across the world.  Just getting elected is going to do a lot in this regard, but actually put in some effort here.  Bring back balance where we’re friends with our allies and not friends with our adversaries.
  8. Immigration. As I mentioned above, I want to see DACA reinstated.  I’m not saying ICE needs to be disbanded, but the nominee needs to make clear that ICE is going to follow your guidance.  The President needs to be in charge of immigration policy, not let it be run by ICE agents.  Stand firm for comprehensive immigration reform.  It’s ok to compromise and give something on border security, but it needs to be in exchange for a big get – pathway to citizenship.  Let’s reform the legal immigration system.  More immigrants is a good thing.  They make our country stronger.  And one of my favorite lines works well with immigration – Be nice.  Help when you can.  If you can’t help, don’t be a jerk.  Even if the nominee can’t get legislation passed, we need to return to the idea that America is a force for good in the world.  So we help refugees.  We don’t cage people on the border.  We don’t have a punitive deportation policy.  If the cruelty is the point with the Trump administration, be the exact opposite.  Let kindness and compassion be the point.
  9. Criminal justice.  There are a lot of pieces to this issue.  Beto has been pretty bold in his thoughts about legalizing marijuana.  The next President can do a lot with executive action on this issue.  I think a good thing to stress would be use of clemency and pardon power to undo some of the damage that the War on Drugs has inflicted.  Some of the candidates have mentioned getting rid of privately run, for profit prisons.  I hope more candidates take that on.  The issue of race is especially important in criminal justice and Cory Booker has done a good job of highlighting this.
  10. Guns.  This issue and healthcare (next on the list) are benefitting from movement of the Overton window.  It’s a matter of time before gun regulation and Medicare for all become actual policy.  Guns are more important that healthcare, in my opinion, so I put them here, one above healthcare.  I think, as with many of the issues, the next President can do a lot to help with guns just by executive action and I think that should be the priority.  While it’s going to be a fight, I think the fact that some parts of the gun regulation agenda are wildly popular would make it easy to do this sooner rather than later, as long as you focus on one or two very popular parts of the agenda and leave the more controversial stuff for later on.
  11. Healthcare.  Maybe it’s surprising that I’ve put this issue down this far on my list.  A lot of the work that the next President can do on healthcare is with executive action.  Undo the things that Trump has done in this area.  Appoint the right people and get government working again.  That’s a lot and should be done immediately, as I mentioned above.  As far as major overhaul of the healthcare system, I’m in favor of it.  I think Senators Warren and Sanders are right that the system shouldn’t be set up for private insurance companies to make money on healthcare.  I favor Medicare for all.  I also like Mayor Pete’s idea of Medicare for all who want it.  Just open up the Medicare system to everyone and you’ve made a huge difference.  I think any of the candidates should stress that they want to get healthcare for everyone, rather than supporting a system that leaves millions without or that lets people end up in bankruptcy.  I don’t really support Joe Biden’s plan to take the ACA and expand from there.  We should focus on plans that take our existing, well functioning and well liked government run plan – Medicare – and expand to more people than just seniors.  I feel like introducing a public option that just creates a different government run plan is wasteful and would have to be undone down the line anyway when Medicare for all eventually becomes the system.  Work as much with executive action at the outset to shore up the ACA and then spend some political capital on other issues higher on my list.  I think a good tack for one of the nominees to take on this issue is to set forth the plan, but say that she would sign any legislation that comes from Congress that improves the system and expands coverage for Americans.
  12. Other Issues.  Here I would put a lot of the little things that are just pet ideas for me.  Get rid of the penny.  Come out in favor of human exploration of the moon and beyond.  Also, some bread and butter ideas fall down here – infrastructure.  Social Security.  I put taxes down here, but realistically, they’re going to need to be addressed much sooner and probably in conjunction with whatever big idea the President chooses to take on first – climate change or healthcare.  A wildcard here is the budget deficit.  We know Republicans will get on board with fiscal discipline once it’s a Democrat in the White House.  Get ahead of this issue.  Either, take the position that the deficit is not a problem or, if we’re in recession, point out that getting out of recession is the most important thing.  Or hit early, hard and often the fact that the budget issue is because of Republican tax cuts and what’s needed to help the budget issue is to raise taxes.

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