If I were (or could be) running for president…

Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for becoming the Presidential Nominee of the Republican Party on June 16, 2015, I have experienced many moments in which I found myself thinking about what I perceive to be the relevant issues that politics need to address in the United States of America (and worldwide, as well).

And, sooner or later, my thoughts then frequently pose the question: what would I do if I were (or rather even could be) running for President? What would be the topics I believe should be “front and center” of any campaign, and how would I talk about them?

Importantly, one of the first things I would point out is that–from the way I understand the constitution and the mandate for the President of the United States, as well as the limitations imposed–many campaign “promises” by current candidates seem unrealistic and disingenuously made

Anyway, for those of you who experience similar moments, I would appreciate receiving feedback, mostly for these purposes: to improve my understanding of these issues and also to generate additional ideas for potential solutions.

On the whole, I perceive a few, separable, clusters of issues and questions:

  • human rights
    • constitutional rights: what can our government do to improve and subsequently ensure these unalienable rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?
    • racial relations: how have members of different races treated each other in the past, and how do we wish for this to change, going forward? –this includes, for instance, the situation of African-Americans in prisons, and how this has led to several ripple effects, creating a series of related problems
    • abortion: to what extend can people accept this as a situation in which two individuals’ rights are inevitably pitted against one another? and could we find ways to not increase this tension, but avoid it altogether except in rare circumstances? –I would like to include whether, given the progress in the science of neuropsychology, as well as current philosophical debates, we can come closer to a realistic understanding of the “beginning of life” in terms of neuronal activity as a precursor for sentience
    • freedom of (opinion and) expression: how can the government protect this freedom where other interests threaten it? where has government itself in the past undermined these liberties? and what could be done to re-balance this liberty with any others, and also not at the cost of some people having “more political-expressional freedom” due to their wealth or power, as this would go against the institution of democracy
  • ecological matters
    • pollution prevention: how can we improve the track record of industrially producing goods our societies rely on, by at the same time encouraging economically sound behavior?
    • energy consumption: what can government do to balance the needs of humanity, i.e. additional resources vs. having a planet that sustains humanity in the first place? –as long as our entire human culture is based on the concept of future generations enjoying a “better life”, it seems obvious that access to energy as a resource will have to be greatly increased (in perpetuity!)
    • population density: what incentives can governments create to control population increases and migration in ways that minimize conflicts with human rights?
  • economy
    • productivity and technology: how can advancements be shared with regions and countries that do not yet have access to them, without encouraging general “laziness” and long-term dependence on the part of those underdeveloped regions/countries?
    • fiscal and free-market policies, including taxation and redistribution: to what extend and how should government control and regulate markets, so as to ensure that the positive function of flexibly allocating resources to provide desired products and services is not undermined by unrealistic notions of accumulating wealth and power in the hand of relatively few individuals beyond any such limits acceptable in a democracy?
    • monetary policies: given the increased world-wide trade interdependence of nations and peoples, do we need to think about how countries, in which people experience structural disadvantages due to their deficit in purchasing power, can be treated, so as to avoid large migratory movements in the 21st century that would threaten both emigration and immigration-hit countries? –this will also have to address the fact that technological advances could easily make an entire industry obsolete at any moment, requiring massive interventions to avoid humanitarian disasters!
  • security
    • response to geo-political conflicts, such as between Russia and its neighbors (Ukraine), in the Middle Eastern region (both the situation of Israel and the threat of the Islamic State), and between the two Koreas: what avenues are generally open to engage with the parties that do not involve military action? have these avenues been used to their fullest extent? if so, what military means can be justified, and how are they then best implemented?
    • mass-destruction armament: how can international relations be improved to reduce (or even eliminate) the need for storing and threatening with weapons of mass destruction?

So, yes, these would be roughly the topics I think come to mind regularly. One of the most saddening experiences for me in the past few weeks has been the absence of content in any debates or “ask-the-candidates” interviews. Instead, the simple “solutions” being touted seem incredibly like coming from quacks to me–which is true for both Democrats as Republicans… New knowledge from the overlapping sciences of human behavior and economic decision making is simply just waiting to be integrated into smart policy making!

And while I appreciate the difficulty of presenting more than soundbites in a media landscape which, just like the rest of the economy, is simply following the trend of making reporting ever more efficient–by reducing important arguments to their cartoon or caricature versions–I still think that most Americans would be able to understand even the most heated and difficult topics if they were presented in less emotionally charged ways.

As an example: I have no problem contemplating that for someone who greatly cares about protecting every human life on this planet, it seems not only natural but downright imperative to feel outraged about the idea of women being allowed to terminate a developing human being, particularly in circumstances in which many alternative choices could have been made at several points prior to that decision. At the same time, I can also understand the notion of suggesting that such an attitude, when paired with the desire to incarcerate hundreds of thousands of people simply for engaging in possibly unlawful but otherwise non-society-threatening behavior–such as drug use–, could be perceived as hypocrisy. So, maybe what is needed on both sides is to understand why there is a conflict of interest, and to what the antecedents are.

I just happen to think that simply imposing one’s view about what is right and wrong on others will never get us any closer to coming to an agreement. In that regard, I believe what American politics is lacking is not the passion for having an argument, but rather the ability to listen and, at least temporarily, suspend one’s disbelief in another’s position, so as to understand the reasons behind the opposition.

As such, if I were to run for President, I would do my level best to never say: “I’m right and you’re wrong!” Instead I would try to say, “please try to explain why you think that way, as I want to understand what it is that you need.