I found a lot of food for thought in the recent column by Ben Fields about having a leader we can connect and feel comfortable with and the need to present policies in an understandable way.
Which of the candidates in the recent Democratic primary debate has the qualities I am looking for? Who combines those qualities with the policies I support? Who would make the best vice-president in combination with the best person for president?
I am not ready to answer these questions for myself. I am curious to see how the voters in the early bellwether states respond to the challenge they give themselves to make the best choice. Their decision will influence who remains in the campaign for the rest of us to choose from.
One of the challenges of presenting policies in an understandable way is that I am not sure we even have the concepts down among ourselves.
For example, with respect to universal health care, I am still not sure about the distinction between balancing taxes versus costs. If I am saving on out-of-pocket expenses over here, does it really matter if I am paying a little more in taxes over there? Is there a two-step decision-making process, first to require that the rich and corporations pay their fair share, and then to re-balance the system so that the government takes more of our money while the insurance companies take less?
Also, what are the full implications of losing private insurance? Does this really mean less choice, or is it a wash? I am very happy with my insurance right now, but would I give it up for a system that guarantees the same coverage for everyone? For me the answer is yes, especially since I know how helpful it has been to me. I want everyone to have this same assurance of good benefits when they need it.
Maybe we need to use a slogan — which might fit on a T-shirt, if not a hat — that goes something like this: “Health care for all: fair taxes, lower costs.” Then have a simple explanation, or maybe a graphic, of what this means so that we can fight for and support it.
I also think a lot about the concepts related to climate change. Cecil Roberts wrote recently that the elimination of carbon emissions could require between $1-$3 trillion “to keep Appalachia and other parts of the country from spiraling into further economic despair.” It could help me — and others — to know exactly what is involved and what the exact numbers are. What period of time do these numbers apply to? What exactly do they cover? Do they also take into account any gains from new industries based on alternative energy or the savings from reducing the health and environmental impacts from fossil fuels? Where does energy efficiency come in?
I feel like knowing these kinds of specifics could better prepare our leaders to ask for exactly what we need to make up the difference here in our state and in other states depending on the extraction industries. I do not view this data as a way of sidetracking the movement to address climate change. Rather, these essential numbers can give us a realistic basis for requesting and planning for the necessary public and private investments into our economy.
I even thought of another slogan for this issue: “Zero carbon emissions: Save our earth and make us whole.” Good graphics may also help us to tell the story on this one.
All of us as concerned and caring citizens know that we have a lot of work to do. We must educate ourselves and reach out to our neighbors in an open dialogue that includes listening to their concerns. We need to find and support the candidates for offices at every level who will stand up for policies to make the changes we most want to see to protect our health and save our planet.
Finally, we all need to enter into a healing process together in order to bring everyone into the detailed planning and implementation of the changes we need. I like it when Stephen Smith says how we in West Virginia do not need one leader, we need a thousand leaders. I believe in this concept and the key role that each of us can play.
At the same time, with relation to the presidency, it can only help when we have at the top a person, and his or her teammate, who together exemplify the qualities that we most want to see. There are also real powers that go along with these positions, day in and day out. We need to trust these top leaders to be able to handle their formal and informal powers in the best interests of all of us.
This is a lot to ask of anyone, but good candidates have already stepped forward and are sharing themselves with us. I feel confident that we will collectively figure out who can best meet our standards. The top leaders can also pave the way for the rest of us to contribute to making things better from wherever we are.