Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

Presidential Town Halls Miss The Most Important Question And Answer

Created: 23 April, 2019
Updated: 14 August, 2022
3 min read

On Monday, five live CNN presidential town halls aired back-to-back. Dozens and dozens of ideas. Oh, and the imperative of who can WIN.

Chris Cuomo jumped on that in the very first hour with Senator Amy Klobuchar. Someone mentions Trump. Cuomo's suave transition:

“Well, that’s a good segue. Because, the policy ideas are only as good as your ability to put the into practice by winning the election.”

Right. Winning the election. That’ll do it. If you just win the White House - oh, and also the House and Senate - then you’ll turn all your dreams into reality. Just like Willie Wonka promised.

Get real. There’s one huge obstacle that’s not even being discussed in all these nationally-broadcasted forums, and it is this: Until you unrig the system and unlock the US Congress, nearly all of the Democratic Party’s impassioned ideas will be consigned to the Bermuda Triangle of political history.

This is not really an opinion anymore. Maybe it was when I first started moaning about it five years ago. But it’s 2019.

Two weeks ago, Pew reported that 17 percent of Americans trust our government to do the right thing. The average “confidence” rating in Congress over the last five years? Gallup pegs it at nine percent. Less than one out of 10 of us have confidence in the people we’re paying to make the rules.

The money flood still flows (record amount of $5.2 billion spent on 2018 midterms). US House districts are as gerrymandered (rigged) as they ever have been, and you still need 60 votes in the Senate (which violates the Constitution) to move any legislation of lasting value to the Oval Office.

There are ways to fix these wrongheaded rules that rig the game. Solutions exist. Reformers are working on the ground all over the country to make it happen. But they need a hell of a lot more help — and that only comes with awareness, a bit of old fashioned anger, and then action.

I’m writing this while watching the second of the five live town halls. Forty minutes through episode 2, Senator Elizabeth Warren gets asked the same question. “How ya gonna win?!” I don’t need to get through the final three town halls to know that they’ll all be asked the same.

But they’re not being asked about the system. That same system in which 75 percent of Americans asked ranked “ending the culture of corruption in Washington” as their #1 priority — above protecting Social Security and Medicare and creating jobs.

Four years ago a loud mouth who was a master of manipulating the media took voters on a ride, promising that he’d “drain the swamp!” If he had actually tried to do that, I’d be cheering. The president made it worse.

Now we hear a few Democratic candidates saying that at least Trump had it right when he was talking about the need to blow up the system. And in a way, he actually was right. But not in the way he meant it.

If you want to disrupt this system, first you must unrig the game. That’s the real disruption. You have to reform the rules in order to restore the system.

This is not easy. But today, is anything easy to do in American government that makes a damn’s worth of difference?

Of course, interviewers and candidates should keep talking about the big issues and their ideas to improve health care access, build infrastructure, protect consumers and labor, increase wages, make college affordable, reduce drug prices…

It’s a long list. And it’s been a long list for decades. But to actually make any real headway on any of it, first you have to get under the hood and start making real repairs. Otherwise, the damaged vehicle will just keep steering itself down the same political dead end.