I was not born in this great country which was founded on the premise of “life, liberty and the pursue of happiness,” but I can dream of having the best president I can elect; one that would say and do the right thing at every decision point of his/her presidency.
I believe 2020 will bring the most important presidential election in my lifetime, and because of that I am writing here about the “ideal” president I would like to see in the White House; one that unfortunately does not exist; one that is not among the current pre-candidates either. However, having a goal, having a northern star, having a dream helps me to make a better decision as a voter, and I hope that will also help some readers. Let’s cover the main areas that are of interest in the 2020 elections.
A simple definition of a good economy is: low unemployment, good salaries, low inflation, and growing GDP. The first two metrics affect me directly because with a job, and a good salary I can spend, save, travel, invest, etc. The last two metrics, inflation and GDP, affect me indirectly and only in a long run, not now, not today. If I am a medical doctor working in my private clinic, my personal and current “economy” is good. If I am an unemployed PhD in Physics, my personal and current economy is bad. If the country’s economy has low inflation and growing GDP, a larger population will eventually benefit independently of my personal economy. For whom do I want the good economy, for me, for the nation, or for the world? I will vote for a candidate that addresses my personal economy with local and timely economic packages, but also with packages that help the country’s economy in a long time line, for decades to come. Easy? Of course not, but there are may intelligent economists in the world that can figure out such packages. Recent economic packages from G.W. Bush until now have been good for personal economies, but we know well that budget deficits and the national debt, that annually consume hours and days in the US Congress debates, are preventing the country economy to grow for decades to come. We need better long-term economic policies. I would vote for a candidate that presents a simple, credible, and actionable plan for long-term economic growth.
I don’t mention taxes as a metric in the personal economy because there are countries where personal economies are great even with much higher taxes. As long as I can have a growing personal economy (being able to gain more and save more each year) the percent of taxes is irrelevant to me. Taxes will come back to me in the form of roads, airports, catastrophe recuperation, security, education, healthcare, social security, etc.
The current debate is whether health care should be a human right or a purchasable service. Really? I go back to the Declaration of Independence phrase above; it starts with “life” and life is so tightly dependent on health that we cannot defend life if we don’t defend health. Healthcare should be treated as a basic human right that should be subsidized by governments everywhere. If additional care is needed beyond the basics, private services can be added, the same way that water is subsidized but anybody, if so desired, can buy a bottle of water for ten times the basic price. The two main players in healthcare are the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies. Both sectors need to realize that they are dealing with human lives, not with shareholder value alone. I would vote of a candidate that has a plan to create a basic healthcare system for every citizen and that bring the insurance and the pharmaceutical industries to understand their role in society of preserving life over quarterly profits.
I am biased on this one because of my own condition of being an immigrant, but who is not an immigrant in US? Even all native Americans who were here before Columbus came from Africa via Asia and the stretch of Bering (Alaska). In fact, we all come from Africa anyways. Whether you came in the 1500’s or in 2000’s makes no difference in term of being immigrant or not. However this is not my main issue with those who suffer xenophobia. We have to realize that this country has been dominant in the world stage thanks to the infusion of immigrants, their push, their intellect, their desire to do better than locals, their work ethics, etc. Think of the founder Alexander Hamilton (Nevis, U.K.), the scientist Albert Einstein (Germany), the entrepreneur Ellon Musk (South Africa), the comedian Bob Hope (U.K.), the fashion designer Carolina Herrera (Venezuela), the Google founder Sergey Brin (Russia), the blue jeans creator Levi Strauss (Germany), the singer Carlos Santana (Mexico), the secretary of state Madeleine Albright (Czech Republic), the writer Isabel Allende (Chile), the fashion designer Oscar de la Renta (Dominican Republic), the youtube founder Steve Chen (Taiwan), the baseball player Mariano Rivera (Panama), the actor politician Arnold Schwarzenegger (Austria), the singer Gloria Estefan (Cuba), the scientist Nikola Tesla (Croatia), the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (Scotland), the yahoo founder Jerry Yang (Taiwan), the actor Michael Fox (Canada), the actresses Natalie Portman (Israel), Salma Hayek (Mexico), Sofia Vergara (Colombia), and thousands more that have made this country great. If the government stops immigration this society, and the world, will be doomed to lack of plurality and diversity, the two bastions of strength of the US society. I would vote for a president that open the borders, create a fair and proactive immigration system that all nations would imitate.
If I had to choose a single issue that would solve many of the problems in the world it is education; specially the education of young girls around the world. Lack of education is at the top of so many problems, for instance: drug addiction, poverty, teenage pregnancy, unemployment, racial discrimination, lack of opportunities, xenophobia, homophobia, religious intolerance, criminality, domestic violence, lack of health, and many more. Therefore, if we want to have a better society, in this country and in the world, we must focus our efforts in education. Why young girls education is my priority? Because young girls will become mothers, and the most important person in the life of any human is the mother who guides, nurtures, teaches, cares, and protects. But if they are not educated, first they will be pregnant before their adulthood, likely illiterate, and with no possibilities to provide the right care of their children. I would vote for a president that has a plan to increase teacher’s salaries, reestablish their importance in society. The education plan must be inclusive for all children in US, and of all countries. This must be a combined effort of all countries of the world. An educated world will elect better leaders and so better plans will continue to be proposed and implemented.
Climate change has been cast as a temperature issue, when in reality it is more than that. Climate change should be renamed as “climate chaos.” As the world concentration of carbon dioxide is now higher than any value in the past eight hundred thousand years, we have entered what statisticians call “out of sample” era. This means that we don’t really know how the earth will react, and it likely will enter into a period of chaos, extreme rains, extreme temperatures, extreme hurricanes, extreme fires. Notice I used the word “extreme” rather than high or low, because the climate will swing, as it is doing already, from lows to highs to lows in short periods of time. Anything we have explained above will be worthless if we, the human race, disappear from earth, so climate must be addressed now, with no delays. I would vote for a president with a plan to reverse the carbon dioxide emissions at all cost, because waiting is not an option anymore. Look at California’s fires, Mississippi’s floods, Florida’s hurricanes, Europe temperatures, north pole melting, coastal cities disappearing, etc. There is urgency!
We don’t have pure democracy anywhere in the world. We only have representative democracies where we elect people to take decisions for us. Decisions of policy, of going to war, of building a better society. We need to be educated to distinguish, the best we can, between the demagogue and genuine, between the fake and the real, between the corrupt and the honest politician. However, we cannot elect freely if the electoral system is rigged. This country has three big problems that prevent “the people” to elect fairly what they want: voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the electoral college system. Each one of these three problems has a simple solution: every citizen must have the right and the obligation to vote; districts have to be defined based on population instead of political affiliation; and the electoral college, a dinosaurian system that was designed for pre-telegraph times, has to be replaced. Now, in the era of wireless communications it is ridiculous that we need to use a system that prevents us to count once-citizen as one-vote. This is the laugh of the world when it comes to electoral systems. I would vote for a president and a congress that enact laws to dismantle voter suppression, gerrymandering and the electoral college system. Democracy is at the risk of extinction in the US if they continue dragging this issue for long. Current politicians prefer the status quo because the system has worked well for them, but if “the people” feel fed up with a corrupted democracy, it will be replace for a system that we do not know.
It is lack of education why a voter will decide to vote for a candidate based on only a single issue. The only perfect candidate is oneself, because only “I” think as “I” do like to think. Hence, voters should not be looking for a candidate that will fit all his/her views, but a candidate with moral principles, honesty, and determination to improve society one step at a time. There are three issues that in many situations define a voter’s decision for one candidate or another, independently of the plans presented by the candidate. The first issue is pro-choice vs pro-life; the second is the Second Amendment (gun rights); and the third one is taxation, which is a proxy for capitalism (right) vs socialism (left) in US. In my opinion, educating the population will reduce these one-issue voters to a minimum, but let’s talk about each of them separately.
If we follow, again, the Declaration of Independence , the words are “life,” “liberty,” and the “pursue of happiness.” Hence we should preserve life (pro-life side); we should allow the mother’s liberty to choose (pro-choice side); and we should pursue the happiness of both, the child and the mother (both sides at the same time). Each situation is different and difficult, and if we cannot be sure that happiness will be there for both, or at least for the child, why should we allow a human being to arrive to this world to suffer? This is always a difficult issue that cannot be resolved in one paragraph, but as we get more educated we will eventually arrive to a consensus of what to do in each situation.
To talk about the Second Amendment (gun rights) issue we go to the US Constitution. The Second Amendment is there to combat despotic governments by arming citizens. Now the question is, do we really think that a group of citizens well armed with machine guns and riffles can topple the US army, air force and navy? The real issue is that people with mental illness have access to guns that they should not have. Besides, countries where laws do not allow the purchase of guns by their citizens have much less mass shooting massacres than US. To me guns should be simply recreational, never automatic, single bullet riffles for hunting deer and turkeys, not to kill school children. Guns destroy life; destroy our freedom to be in a country music concert without worrying about a shooter; and destroy the happiness of many families victims of massacres.
Finally, let’s talk about taxes. As I said before, in the US, taxes are a proxy for capitalism vs socialism (or communism). In reality, there are capitalist states with large taxes (Germany for instance), and socialist states with small taxes (Venezuela for instance), so there is no such clear cut association between small/large taxes with capitalism/socialism. I believe it is a matter of perception and lack of education to make such association. Germany has almost 40% income tax, but it is the strongest economy in Europe, while in the US is around 30%. Increments of two percent in taxes are discussed in the US congress like a life-death matter because US citizens associate large taxes with socialism, a taboo word in US politics. Denmark always lead the survey of happiest countries, while also has the largest income taxes in Europe (close to 45%). Is not happiness what counts? What we should do is to make sure that the government does not spend more than the taxes it collects. We must realize that taxes well spent will come back as benefits to the population. Pure capitalism does not work, the same way that pure communism does not work either. What we need is accountability of politicians because they are employees of the citizens of the country, and are at their service for a fixed amount of time.
I now recall a song called “The Fable of the Three Brothers” by a Cuban author. The lyrics tell the story of how three brothers went to travel around the world; the older brother always walked looking down to avoid falling in holes or stumble on stones, then he never kept the course to go far. The middle brother always walked looking ahead to avoid getting lost like his older brother, but he kept falling in holes and hitting stones and never went far either. The younger brother looked down with one eye, and ahead with the other. At the end, the younger brother traveled the entire world (although ending crossed-eye, as the song humorously ends). The moral of the song is valid here: we need a president with a vision not only for this wonderful country, but for the entire world too. One that thinks globally and acts locally. One that respects the life of every citizen in US and in the world; one that defends the liberty of every citizen in US and in the world; and one that allows the pursue of happiness of every citizen in US and in the world. And if we apply the fable to time rather than geography, we can repeat what has been said before by others: “the difference between a politician and a statesman is that the politician is worried about the next election, while the statesman is worried about the final election before God. We need a president that is both, a politician and a statesman that worries about now and the future of the nation and the planet.
So, what characteristics a good president should have to gain my vote? Be honest; care about citizens; compassionate to humans of any race, gender, creed; be the example of unity and inspiration for children; don’t think on the next election result, think of the well being of the nation and the world; cultivate partnerships among all countries to achieve a long and lasting peace that will bring prosperity to the planet; invest on education and save the planet climate with firm commitment. Who is that person in the race now?
C.A. Soto Aguirre©