President Trump kicked off his reelection campaign in front of a large crowd in Orlando Tuesday night. Critics said his campaign didn’t need a kickoff because it never really ended. And while that may be true, he isn’t the first president to thrive in a perpetual campaign mode.
Few on either side of the political spectrum will admit this, but this is an area President Trump and his predecessor, President Obama, have in common. Both are much more comfortable standing in front of a jam-packed stadium than they are in more intimate conversations with real people about real policy.
That’s unfortunate, because the nation needs more serious conversations than applause-line-filled campaign speeches.
When candidates, pundits or just regular political observers ignore the problems of the nation in order to gratify political pride or demonize political opponents, the people lose. When issues are discussed only as sweeping generalities rather than specific solutions, communities suffer. When the focus — by both political parties — is on banners, balloons and which candidate can deliver a speech in front of the most American flags, opportunities for real progress are missed.
When politicians become obsessed with made-for-TV and social media moments rather than keeping promises — exemplifying decency and elevating humanity – all are left wanting.
When the focus — by both political parties — is on banners, balloons and which candidate can deliver a speech in front of the most American flags, opportunities for real progress are missed.
The desire for less name-calling and speculation about foreign interference in past elections appears to be the biggest thing about which Americans agree. The Pew Research Center found that top issues for both Republican and Democrats include health care, border security, the economy and education. These are the discussions that should be dominating political discourse, not the name-calling and threat-filled rhetoric we’ve become accustomed to.
Immigration can be fixed. We have previously urged leaders to see immigration as a bridge issue, not a wedge. Better conversations can lead to greater cooperation and real solutions.
Health care is in need of attention. Rising health care costs are affecting people across the country who rely on certain medications or treatments, like insulin, to survive. Since 2013, about 14 million people have been shifted onto government plans. But if the nation is going to adopt a government-dominated health care system, that should require hefty discussion and debate, not just happen without notice.
The desire for adequate and strong family leave policies is another area worthy of discussion. Many Americans are forced to choose between caring for a new child or aging family member and meeting the rigorous demands of work. Compassionate family leave policies do not have to impede business and can add to the general welfare of the population.
To be sure, political rallies have a place in American politics. There isn’t anything wrong with inspiring supporters through soaring rhetoric or painting a grand vision of a hopeful future. Sadly, however, recent political rallies by both parties at national and local levels, have become forums for frustration and grievances instead of solutions and forward-moving action.
We suggest a different approach. In 1980, candidate Ronald Reagan delivered one of the most unique and stunning conclusions ever to a political acceptance speech. At the climax, when the convention hall was energized and ready to erupt, Reagan pivoted to the need for divine help and guidance on the journey toward a better America. He asked everyone to join him in a moment of silent prayer. Instead of ending on a red-meat applause line, the nation got divinely centered silence.
While it may seem counterintuitive to a nation accustomed to grievance-based rhetoric, a little more divine silence in public discourse would do the country good.