What’s the issue?
By Katelyn Latture
There is a lot of talk currently being thrown into the computers, televisions, radios, phones and faces of Americans as the United States prepares for the 2020 national election. With all this noise, it can be difficult to know what the actual issues are.
According to Dr. Saundra Ardrey, an associate professor of political science at Western Kentucky University, candidates are “spending too much time on things that don’t matter,” and Americans need to be better informed. Here is a quick rundown of four issues candidates are running on during this election cycle.
The economy, arguably more than any other aspect of the country’s well-being, is the primary issue concerning voters in most elections.
The state of the economy heavily affects the way voters decide in elections, especially the presidential ones, Ardrey said.
“This is what makes it so tough for the political left in this election. They don’t want to talk much about the economy because that’s an issue that will favor Trump and the Republicans,” Jim Waters, the president and CEO of Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, said. “Yet the left isn’t succeeding in either downplaying or ignoring the roaring economy we now have – at least not with its current crop of presidential candidates.”
Analysts, professors and other political experts have concluded that President Donald Trump will run on the success of the economy because Americans vote in that direction.
When it comes to how Democrats will approach the economic argument, they will likely have to look at the fine statistics and details behind the improving economy, Ardrey said.
The economy and jobs may be improving, but what are the specifics? In some cases, people are working two or more jobs, and that is partially why unemployment rates have improved and the economy is doing well. Democrats will need to prove this in order combat the president’s claim to economic success.
Foreign engagement encompasses a few issues that will be prevalent during this election cycle: the military, immigration and combating terrorism.
“[Trump] will also point to his success in taking out terrorist leaders and in immigration policy, particularly reducing the number of illegal individuals entering the country at the southern border,” Waters said.
A study from the Pew Research Center found “that defending the country against terrorism remains a top priority among the public overall.”
As for Republicans, “defending the country from terrorist attacks (87%) ranks as the leading policy priority for the president and Congress… and dealing with the issue of immigration (73%).”
As of this point in the Democratic race, there is no single Democratic foreign policy, an article from the New York Times reported. The remaining Democratic candidates have differing views on certain issues of foreign policy – Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren said they would continue the “personal diplomacy” Trump developed with North Korea. Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Amy Klobuchar said they would not. Differing views are also present in how they would deal with conflict in Israel, protect oil shipments, handle nuclear warfare and other issues of foreign policy.
“Unless Democrats get their act together, Trump will win again,” Ardrey said.
“These [voters] are people who are not thinking policy wise — they’re thinking about things that they or their friends have read, about how things are outrageously expensive,” Robert Blendon, a political analysis and health policy professor at Harvard, said in a recent article from Politico. “There’s no need to get in a fight over who has the best big plan for the future.”
An article from NPR suggests voters are worried more by the cost of health coverage than whether they are covered or not. For many voters, it boils down to money: whether they have enough money to live comfortably and where their money is going.
Health care is the issue Democratic candidates have been discussing heavily, and Waters said Trump’s record on health care is what Democrats will want to challenge more than anything.
Trump, as Americans know from the previous national election cycle, wanted to undo former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which did not work out as planned. There is not yet an official health care policy from the Republican side.
Democratic candidates are currently suggesting more socialized versions of health care coverage, a Healthline article said.
This same article said Sanders and Warren currently promote Medicare for All, which does not have one official policy. There are several possible ways that, if this form of health care made it to Congress, this policy could be implemented. Basically, Medicare for All would move the U.S. from a multi-payer system to a single-payer system, meaning taxes would pay for the entire nation’s health care coverage.
Biden and Klobuchar, on the other hand, are suggesting reforms to the ACA, according to Healthline.
According to a survey from Pew, “environmental protection and global climate change are rising on the public’s agenda for the president and Congress.”
This concern has risen in the past few years and crossed partisan lines, according to the survey’s findings. However, the survey results showed “climate change is near the top of the list of issues among Democrats and Democratic leaners.”
Republicans are not as concerned with climate change — 39% of Republicans, as opposed to the 85% of surveyed Democrats — but are now addressing it because Democratic politicians, other Americans and people internationally are talking about it.
Ardrey does not wholly agree with these statements. She said, despite people voicing their concerned about certain issues, even climate change, they almost always vote with their pocketbooks.
She proposes people, when considering elections and for whom they should vote, ask themselves, “Am I better off today than I was yesterday?” If so, they are more likely to vote for the incumbent. If not, they may vote for the challenging candidate.
Regardless of the issues, both Ardrey and Waters concluded, perhaps this race isn’t as much about the issues but is more about a candidate’s likeability and whether the voters think they are doing well.