Editor’s note: Ohio will hold its presidential primary March 15. As that date approaches, we’ll see the presidential hopefuls ramping up their messages as they court Ohioans’ votes. The best way to preserve democracy is to exercise democracy. This last week we invited readers from all political leanings to be part of a virtual focus group.
We received a robust number of participants, to whom we asked: What is the No 1 issue to you this election year?
Today we share the first set of answers we received. We’ll share more next week. If you would like to be considered for the focus group, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line of the email, please write “focus group:” followed by one of these categories: “Republican,” Democrat,” “Independent” or “undecided.” — Connie Post
No. 1 issue: Polarization of the political process
Arthur B. “Peter” Petrini, Beavercreek (Independent)
The single most damaging issue facing the political future of the United States is the polarization of the political process.
The terms “liberal” and “conservative” are now seen as pejorative terms by each side, and there is little or nothing they agree on. In the past, true liberals and conservatives wanted as little “big government” interference as possible but believed in, to a greater or lesser extent, these things: constitutionalism, capitalism, free enterprise and free market economics, small government, low taxes, equal opportunity for all, liberty, freedom of religious expression and the ability to preserve a free and fair electoral process.
Today it seems that conservatives want to do away with the Affordable Care Act and suppress voter turnout. It seems that liberals want a free education for everyone and blame the banks and Wall Street for the ills of the poor.
What I think we need is a president who will work to bring the country back to the middle and work with the other party to govern equitably for all citizens.
No. 1 issue: Education
Trudy Kinneson, Tipp City (Democrat)
“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” — John F. Kennedy
Sadly, in today’s politics, education is often an afterthought with many candidates.
Personally, I believe education should be one of the top issues candidates need to address on the campaign trail. As President Truman once stated, “Without a strong educational system, democracy is crippled. Knowledge is not only key to power. It is the citadel of human freedom.”
So, when examining a candidate’s platform, I am looking for someone who values public education from pre-school to post-secondary education. His or her platform should address the following issues:
- More funding to quality pre-schools. Studies consistently prove that children who enter school delayed in literacy skills never reach grade-level proficiency.
- Equitable funding in public schools for all children regardless of socioeconomic status, disability or race.
- Reducing funding to ineffective charter schools.
- Establishing enriching programs to foster the needs of urban children, living in poverty and without the basic needs of clothing, food and shelter.
- Safety in schools.
Finally, I look at how the candidates address the soaring cost of college education at both public and private institutions. What is his or her answer to young adults who have accrued massive amounts of student debt upon graduation? Do they endorse trade and technical schools for students who do not pursue a college degree?
Access to quality education for all should be one of the main driving forces in this great country of ours. The next president needs to understand the children of today are the future leaders of tomorrow.
No. 1 issue: National security
Tom Carlisle, Dayton (Republican)
There are many, many critical issues facing our country at this time. The most important, I believe, is national security.
However, there are many parts that make up this issue. For example our recent foreign policy has shown the United States to be very weak in standing up to the threats not only in the Middle East but also in every other part of the world. Our traditional allies no longer trust us to help and stand with them. The worst example of this is the complete rupture of our relationship with Israel.
Our military has been reduced to a critically low level and the Obama Administration has not used it in an effective manner.
Our ongoing lack of boarder security is an invitation for terrorists to enter our country as is our nonexistent visa control program. Our open boarder also allows massive amounts of drugs into our country. These drugs include the cheap heroin that is now doing real damage to many parts of our communities.
There many other parts included under the topic of national security and in reality all our major problems are intertwined into one giant fur ball.
There are many other problems that need to be solved for our country to again be safe and prosperous, but they are also all wrapped up in the same giant fur ball. None stand alone.
No. 1 issue: Fear and anger
Ronald S. Whitehead, Beavercreek (Independent)
We are in the midst of a major upheaval and schism in American politics, as profound as the demise of the Whig Party, or the 1900 to 1912 restructuring, and later the New Deal formation of the Democratic Party in the 1930s.
We are experiencing what many see as the loss of the American Dream, formed in the 1950s after WWII. There is the sense our political system has been subverted, and is contrary to the ideals of our nation.
Perhaps starting in the 1970s, there is a feeling that the principles of fairness, a sense of equity (if I work hard and do these things, I will be rewarded) and equality (everyone is treated the same way) are dissipating. There is great disparity, such as wage inequality and redistribution of income upward, and the rules have changed, a sense we are in a crooked game financially, and big money dictates our lives.
The issue is the same as it was with Hamilton and Jefferson: What is the proper role of the government, and what are the boundaries, where is the balance? But, added to this is the fear that either government or business will “take what I have” or “withhold what I earned” — and added to that is the fear and anger over inept and dishonest lawmakers, inefficient government services, a perception of lies and immorality.
The anger and despair we see today is that voiced by people with no voice in the process in our oligarchy — on both sides. That fear and anger then result in extreme left or right views, and moderates are left out entirely. Thus, we will have permanent gridlock and further deterioration and distrust — a downward spiral.
No. 1 issue: Islamic Immigration
Laura Rosenberger, Springfield (Independent)
America must get its immigration practices under control because the political thought of some immigrants who are allowed to stay — legally or illegally — is in direct opposition to the American system of law.
The government’s current practices of turning a blind eye to illegal immigration, as well as allowing the legal immigration of persons whose ideology is contrary to American values, is unlawful and illegal. Islam is not a “religion of peace” as former president Bush would like us to believe; it is a political ideology that clashes with Western values.
Islam’s Sharia Law is just that, a legal code of statutes that sanctions and encourages the enslavement and brutal physical abuse of its own adherents and especially of non-believers. As the Muslim population grows in America, Sharia Law will also grow in America.
We cannot, as a nation, allow this to continue to happen, as it threatens our very fabric of society. The United States is at war with radical Islam, which translates to war with Sharia Law. It is incomprehensible that a government that is supposed to be at war with a particular ideology continues to let the proponents of that ideology enter its territory.
It is high time the federal government stops all immigration of Muslims until further notice or at least until it is willing to put an end to the war on terror. Anything less is not only reckless, it is hypocritical.
No. 1 issue: A qualified presidential candidate
J.D. Whitlock, Oakwood (Independent)
The most important issue for me is finding a presidential candidate on the ballot in November who is qualified for the job. At the rate we are going, the chances of that seem vanishingly small.
Let’s review the top five candidates:
Trump thinks Vladimir Putin is a swell guy. He is a parody of himself. You can’t even really be upset with him, there is no sport in it.
Listening to Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio argue about who has the more insane immigration policy is like nails on a chalkboard. They make the Democratic debates seem like rational discourse. Almost.
Bernie Sanders’ free lunch plan is so ludicrous, even very progressive economists are shaking their heads. And his plot to fix Syria is to get Iran and Saudi Arabia to hold hands and send in a coalition Muslim army. Nevermind they are currently fighting each other in Yemen.
Hillary Clinton’s line about wiping her email server: “Like with a cloth or something?” is possibly the most disingenuous drivel ever uttered by a presidential candidate, and that is really saying something.
Are my standards too high? I hope not. We are better than this. Aren’t we?
I’ll vote for Kasich in the primary, but don’t really think he has a shot at the nomination. There are not enough states with open primaries to give Independents more of a say about who gets on the ballot in November.
I think we should recruit former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to run as an Independent. Who is with me?
No. 1 issue: A collaborative candidate
Michele Abrams, Mason (Independent)
I’ve been very active in community leadership during my career, including Vice President of the Middletown Area Chamber of Commerce where I assumed the responsibilities as Director of Leadership Middletown 1985-96, including consulting in the launch of Leadership Hamilton and Leadership 21.
In turn, I served as the Community Relations manager for AK Steel Corp. for two years, followed by MiddCommons, assisting in consulting projects, including Downtown Middletown redevelopment projects 1998-2000. I then applied for Leadership Ohio, graduating in 2001. I returned to my career as an educator working as a substitute teacher at Lebanon High School in addition to serving as a volunteer on the City of Lebanon Festivals/Tourism Commission until 2014 when I moved to Mason. I graduated from Leadership Warren County in 2011 when I volunteered to serve on the Think Regional Southwest Ohio Leadership Planning Committee, on which I now serve as Chairman of the Summit.
With my experience directing and participating in several community leadership programs with the mission of encouraging public service via elected office, volunteer service, etc., I have been given the opportunity to meet key community leaders and discuss the community issues that rise to the top of agendas throughout Southwest Ohio.
Recently, I have observed that collaborative efforts of informed citizenry supported by their respective community foundations have resulted in transformational solutions to community needs. Consequently, “the collaborative candidate” running for any public office would be my choice.
No. 1 issue: A centrist candidate
Jeffrey Klarer, Mad River Twp. (Undecided)
In making my choice for president this year, the No. 1 quality necessary to garner my vote is based on the candidate’s willingness to find a centrist position on key issues. Extremism at either end of the political spectrum is selfish and is not in the best interest of the country as a whole.
We have many problems that need to be solved. The list is daunting and seems endless. We have seemingly limitless dark money in politics (Citizen United) and the unbalanced power of the 1 percent in politics in general. We need to address the proper separation of our commercial and investment banks (Glass-Steagall) to minimize any possibility of a repeat of 2008. We need a balanced budget where the government spends only the monies provided. We need to address education, fiscal equality and civil rights issues.
Filling the vacant seat of Associate Supreme Court Justice Scalia is one of politics, but is not one that should be used to hold the country hostage. The President shall nominate, the Senate shall advise and consent. Both the President and the Senate need to do their jobs and fill the seat in accordance to the Constitution in a timely manner. The American people are guaranteed three branches of government so the seat needs to be filled as soon as possible with minimal political infighting.
The dysfunction between the executive branch and the congress that has limited our country’s ability to move forward on any substantive issue must be addressed and to me the best way to do so is to move away from the extremes, not only in the selection of the President of the United States but also in the House and Senate, and find a more centrist approach in which forward progress where both sides (right and left) gain and lose equally.
No. 1 issue: The government itself
Deb Genetin, Springfield (Democrat)
The No.1 issue is our government itself — at all levels. What once was here to keep us safe and to collect taxes to provide services that were beneficial to its people has become a system which is forced to make money from us to feed itself (a bloated system with too many salaries, vacations, personal days, sick days, holidays, retirement, double-dipping). Apparently there’s not enough money in helping the people who need help, and so we’ve been offered up on platter to wealthy corporations. Wages have been decreasing since the 1960s and now kids are forced to go deeply in debt to get an education to get a job that pays the equivalent of what someone used to make right out of high school.
Now we have part-time jobs that pay less than a living wage and offer no benefit. Government employees don’t have to work like that or live like that, but Springfield’s government thinks the answer to their financial problem is increasing the income tax — on people making $8 an hour. How about raising Springfield’s minimum wage to $12? That would generate some additional income tax revenue.
We are real human beings struggling horribly to find a way to live in the world and instead of our government being on our side, it has become a pickpocket and a thief.
We cannot continue to live on this Earth as consumer-producers. Our system of government is destroying everything. For a profit.