Pretend Primary: What The Candidates Won't Address
In the run-up to next week's Pretend Primary here on the big blog, we've looked at some of the issues that the presidential candidates might have been pushed into talking about if they had ever had to campaign in the Washington region:
We jumped into tough issues such as illegal immigration, income inequality, sprawl, development and the time crunch that so many families face, and the generational divide that has contributed so mightily to political polarization.
Readers suggested several other issues that the candidates who are spending most of their time in Iowa and New Hampshire might have had to confront if Virginia, Maryland or the District had primaries at the beginning of the 2008 election calendar rather than at the tail end of the primaries:
---With both Dominion Power in central Virginia and Constellation Energy in southern Maryland moving ahead to expand nuclear energy generation for the first time in several decades, the question of where nuclear fits in the new menu of energy sources for the nation should be front and center, but do you hear any candidates seriously addressing alternative energy ideas or the funding necessary to get them moving forward?
---D.C. voting rights seems as dead an issue as it has been anytime in the past three decades now that Congress has killed the effort by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) to add politically balanced House seats for the District and Utah, but shouldn't we at least know where presidential candidates stand on such a basic matter of civil rights?
---With housing prices moderating or sliding in much of the country, we have the blessing and the curse of a market in the District and its close-in suburbs in which prices continue to rise. That's not the standard picture across the nation, so it's hardly likely that any presidential candidate would be asked to address the many social and economic problems that stem from having a metro area in which many, if not most, people are priced out of the kind of housing they want. Since housing and development are issues on which the federal government is deeply involved, shouldn't we hear from candidates about strategies on affordable housing, transportation and the energy and education issues that branch out from decisions about how and where we live?
---Crumbling infrastructure is turning into more of a national issue, thanks to disasters in Minnesota, California and elsewhere, but it's the nation's big metro areas that feel this problem more keenly than the kinds of places where presidential candidates tend to hang out.
---Although more than eight in ten Americans live in or near big cities, the primary calendar is dominated upfront by rural states where urban issues are largely ignored or irrelevant. A sudden and growing reversal in the long trend toward lower crime levels has the nation's mayors in a state of considerable worry, especially since the presidential candidates seem vastly more concerned by crime overseas--terrorism--than by crime in our own country.
--- With only about 55 percent of black and Hispanic teens being graduated from high school on time, the federal government's obsession with test-taking as the cure-all to our education ills can only be deemed a failure. But where are the alternative approaches? Is there a single presidential candidate making education a primary piece of his agenda? Yet is there a single issue more important to the country's future ability to compete globally?
There are obviously more and more crucial issues being ignored this cycle than any candidate could reasonably focus on in the dumbed-down kinds of campaigns that are today's style. But the rural skew of the early primary calendar steers national attention away from the kinds of issues that are most important to places such as the Washington region. One way to fix that would be for states with major urban centers to shoulder their way into the front of the lineup in the next presidential election. The political parties will fight any change, as they did last weekend when the Democrats took punitive action against Michigan's effort to make its votes count.
But voting first counts for a lot--arguably, for everything--in our crazy primary process, and it's time Virginia, Maryland and the District pushed their way into a place that matters.
Next week in this space, we'll take a stab at sending a message to the candidates, as we vote on which Democrats and Republicans would be most suitable as presidential candidates representing the interests of the Washington area. Please join us--and please come ahead today with more thoughts on what the candidates are leaving out of their campaigns this year.
By Marc Fisher |
December 6, 2007; 7:23 AM ET
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