What are you looking for in our presidential candidates/ president this election year? Here are some responses from our Thomas Merton Center members and friends. We hope to include more responses in the March and April issues. Please submit them to NewPeople@ThomasMertonCenter.org by the 13th of the preceding month. Responses are opinions of the individual respondents.
“I am looking for a president who takes climate change very seriously and is committed to making the tough decisions required to meaningfully address it in a way that builds local community, reduces global inequality, and helps us rebuild the true “common wealth” inherent in clean air, clean water, abundant biodiversity, a stable climate, an educated and diverse population, and democratic governance. I will also give extra attention to candidates who support a federal ban on fracking, which I believe to be one of the best ways to eliminate the petrochemical hub expansion in SW PA, OH, and WV.”
—Mark Dixon is a TMC Board Member and environmental activist.
“Qualities I want in a presidential candidate: honesty, clarity of explanations of what/why she/ he wants to do, ability to attract talented co-workers in the government, energy, quick and capacious thinking.”
—Liane Norman, TMC member, poet and author.
“I’m going to respond to the question with a story. During Obama’s run for the White House, my family – including house guests and both my kids who were in middle school – did a phone bank to voters in Texas to support Barack in their upcoming primary. Obama built this incredible voter turnout machine that engaged people who wouldn’t normally do such things in ways that were new and refreshing. We downloaded our lists from the internet and then used our cell phones, which seemed terribly avant garde at the time. LOL. His campaign was spectacularly successful in building a movement that changed the equation of who voted and it much better represented the changing face of America. And then…. he let it go to sleep. SIGH. His signature legislative success – Obamacare – would have been much easier to pass and, I would argue, more progressive if he had doubled down on the care and feeding of that movement he built.
So, two things I want to see from the next Democratic candidate are:
1. Someone who understands the importance of building a movement – and actually does it – that better reflects the new face of America and uses it to drastically change the numbers and demographics of the people who vote. One concrete thing they could do to prove this to me is to lift up the incredibly important work that Stacy Abrams is doing with her Fair Fight.
2. Someone who will be committed to the care and feeding of that movement AFTER the election and will engage it in winning a real progressive agenda.
We already know that the electorate that usually votes is split just about right down the middle. The best hope for progressives is to ‘change the equation’.”
—Tom Hoffman, recently retired from the Sierra Club.
“The 2020 election is probably the most critical one of my voting life. The world scene appears on the edge of chaos. Fear, xenophobia and greed paralyze “first world” nations, including the United States; harsh dictators and poverty hamper “third world” nations; peace and justice sometimes feel like unrealizable hopes/dreams. Despite all of that, faith and optimism energize me to address these concerns.
We need to elect persons of integrity, committed to democratic principles and human rights, and willing to work collaboratively to achieve the common good. We need to elect persons who respect history, who have knowledge of the contemporary international scene, and who prefer dialogue and diplomacy to power and control in international relations. We need to elect persons who appreciate and respect the diversity of race, ethnicity and religion which enriches American culture.
The past three years have been a downward spiral in American political life: an inept and corrupt executive branch and a paralyzed and polarized legislature; leadership in the international community greatly diminished by a pattern of hyper-nationalistic bluster; public confidence in the integrity and truthfulness of leaders seriously eroded. It is imperative that we reverse that course in 2020.”
—Sr. Patricia McCann is a Sister of Mercy.
“First of all, I will support a candidate who exhibits emotional maturity, the ability to think strategically about social, economic, national, and international issues, fundamental morality and compassion. Secondly, my favored candidate will have detailed policy proposals and/or a history of addressing the following issues: climate change, white supremacy, misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, and any ‘othering’ of human beings; income inequality, including health care and housing as human rights; promoting genuine democracy; militarism and endless, imperialistic wars; international human rights violations, including Israel’s apartheid regime; and refugees fleeing all forms of violence and climate change.”
—Bob Mason is a Member of the Battle of Homestead Foundation, Health Care 4 All PA, Izaak Walton League, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Thomas Merton Center.
“Recently I have reflected on what I consider to be the traits of a good President. My thinking on this subject has been shaped by my knowledge of Presidents throughout history who have created significant and positive change–i.e., Washington, Lincoln, Teddy (conservation) and Franklin (New Deal, Social Security) Roosevelt, and LBJ (voting and civil rights, war on poverty). America has been led by a number of Presidents who were particularly effective in spearheading significant positive changes. Looking back, Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, contends that there is a family of traits that these leaders had in common. Looking forward, the characteristics that resonate most for me are empathy, the ability to listen to diverse opinions and a talent for making genuine connections with people from all walks of life.”
—Lisa Scales is a non-profit administrator.
“WE elected the current president. WE are the UNITED States of America – NOT!
WE must be responsible for voting for a president who accepts people of color into our country; for healthcare for all; for recognizing the poverty that exists; for fighting the policies that perpetuate racism; for acknowledging the disparity between the rich and poor; for keeping our word in international actions; for acting to save our planet; for treating all persons with respect.
Today we do not know who the presidential candidates will be. I am hopeful that WE will vote for and elect a president who agrees with my view of the principles and policies necessary to continue our experiment in Democracy.”
—Bonnie DiCarlo is a TMC Cornerstone Sustainer and member of the Finance Committee.
“Some years ago, Noam Chomsky was asked what he would do if he were elected President of the United States. If I remember correctly, he replied that the first thing he would do is ask the people of the United States to forgive him for the crimes he would commit as President. What he was saying here is that the United States is an empire, albeit an unacknowledged one, and the leader of that empire has to commit crimes to preserve it. That is a fact and all Presidents have committed crimes accordingly, some more egregious than others. If an elected President were not to abide by the laws of empire, make no doubt he would be impeached immediately, no ifs or buts. All the candidates know that and we had better know it, too. Given that situation, the best we can do is choose or elect a person whom we think can feign allegiance to the empire while covertly working to undermine it and work for peace and justice in the world. The candidate has to be crafty and resourceful, saluting the flag and all that but giving hints to where his/her heart lies. Are there any candidates who fulfill that bill?
—Michael Drohan is a peace and social justice activist who believes that nuclear weapons and war are the greatest threats to America and the planet.
NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 50 No. 1. February, 2020. All rights reserved.