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Beyond economics

BY KIRSTEN JACOBSEN | JULY 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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Given the glut of economic rhetoric, you would think that Republican candidates for the next president of the United States took pledges to speak of nothing besides the economy, stupid — or maybe traditional marriage.

But as fellow columnist Shawn Gude pointed out on June 15, business credentials appear to be trumping all else in the 2012 race. Most would agree the position of commander in chief involves far more than decreasing taxes and increasing employment opportunities. What seems to be conspicuously missing, then, for voters who cast their ballots based on more than one issue, is talk beyond the wretched state of the economy.

It may not just be our potential leaders’ shortsightedness, however. As a nation, we generally care less about foreign affairs or amorphous entities such as the environment than monetary issues that directly affect us. Our voting has reflected this through countless election cycles. And while this is a time-honored tradition among voting-age members of any party, I would posit that our 24/7 news cycle allows us more opportunities than ever to parse candidate’s views on all issues social, political, and economic.

How will businessman extraordinaire Herman Cain tackle the inevitable global climate-change issues that swell up? Will Michele Bachmann continue America’s involvement in the Libyan conflict or leave the rebels to their own devices?

The first major Republican presidential candidate debate, held last month in New Hampshire, saw contenders do everything from bash Obama to accredit him with “Obamneycare” and the current economic crisis. Which is all well and good when these claims are substantiated. But what of immigration, poverty, and minority and reproductive rights in America? Do our wars on drugs, terrorism, and obesity disappear when the nation’s debt ceiling is left untouched?

Candidates Ron Paul and Gary Johnson (the latter was not invited to New Hampshire but present at an earlier South Carolina debate) do deserve some credit for speaking above and beyond the current economic mess accredited to current President “manure spreader in a windstorm” Obama, though. But they’re free from the pressure of the popular spotlight, unlike the handful of their sound-bite cohorts.

With the overwhelming number of issues cropping up in state legislatures this past year, it would also seem pertinent for candidates to put forth their views for the benefit of the disparate swaths of Republican and independent voters. Not only would this reveal more about their potential presidencies, it would also differentiate candidates from the fiscally conservative, small-government, no-new-taxes crowd.

I would love to hear what our Minnesotan presidency-seekers think of the rampant union-baiting in neighboring Wisconsin. Or how Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich (that bastion of the success of traditional marriage) feel about the wider acceptance of gay marriage in Iowa and around the country. Talk to voters about abortion rights, women’s reproductive-health choices, and health insurance, Gov. Romney. And let’s not forget the ever-important Second Amendment while we’re at it.

There are fewer than seven months until we begin the caucus and primary cycle. If my math is correct, that gives the unending news coverage and intrepid presidential candidates some 211 days to lay out their personal views, issue platforms, and plans to revitalize a supposedly failing America.

Though at this point, I’d settle to hear a reasonably coherent plan on pretty much any issue.

Yes, even the economy.


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