A recent Gallup Poll asked Americans what they thought to be the most pressing challenges facing the nation. The concerns were divided into economic and non-economic issues.
It would behoove the current presidential aspirants to study the country through its citizens’ eyes rather than standard party politics. It’s clear the average Joe and Jane have a very clear understanding of what needs fixing and that they’ll look to candidates who understand their concerns.
The two major parties are struggling with the increasingly popular Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The message is clear, the American public wants to be heard and they expect their elected officials to listen — not only listen but show related action. The people have lost faith with traditional politicians and are looking elsewhere. Sanders and Trump, seen as independent of their parties’ chatter, have caught the interest of a public starved for sincere candidates.
Dissatisfaction with government tops the list of non-economic concerns. Congressional gridlock clearly and rightfully angers the American public. There’s a sense that who sponsors a bill is more important than its value to the nation. The continued threat to close government over singular partisan issues plays poorly to a disenchanted public.
Race relations and racism fall a few percentage points below. The country elected this president yet there are clear signs that his color has not been accepted or respected by a cadre of Congress and factional extremist hate groups. Racial tension is high and incidents are frequent. There’s a need to quiet the anger. Political leadership could do it through bipartisanship. There is no perception of biracial cooperation between the parties and it filters to the community level.
Third on the public’s agenda is a coherent immigration policy. The infighting must stop, and a humane policy is needed so the country can move on. People will rally around a bipartisan solution. The current crop of candidates fuels the gridlock.
Surprisingly low on the list of citizen concerns are poverty, ethics and moral religious decline, hunger, and homelessness. Crime, violence, education and health care are significant concerns but don’t approach the priority levels of the candidates. The never-ending attack on Obamacare has no general support other than the fringe.
Economic problems scare families. Decent jobs, is the mantra. Although there are claims that opportunities have improved there’s little joy among workers. The gap between rich and poor sow the seeds of anarchy, and a fair tax structure and sensible incomes among executives must be resolved. The bailouts didn’t reach those who needed it most, but helped the wealthy and has fostered serious distrust with the national political agenda.
Corruption both in the private sector and government has caught the interest of the general public. Candidates at all levels must express their concerns and solutions. Wage issues, cost of living, fuel/oil prices, the recession and foreign trade concerns bottom out the list of public interest.
Outlier candidate Sanders has hit stride with more than 100,000 people to date flocking to his rallies. Hillary runs a far second in audience interest. Americans can’t get enough of Trump as thousands pack his rallies. Bernie’s people are taking the time to look at his history, and he has gained trust in his positions. For example, he voted against the Iraq war. The public is dying for integrity in their elected officials. Trump needs to establish himself within the mainstream for a serious run.
Folksinger Bob Dylan warbled, The Times They Are A-Changin’. Politicians should listen to the lyrics carefully.
Big money is not enough. The public has had enough.
Dr. Marc Yacht is a retired physician living in Hudson, Fla. This column courtesy of Context Florida.