Anthony DiStefano

Anthony DiStefano, of Aiken, spent 29 years in state and federal government including with the Ohio General Assembly, the U.S. House of Representatives and two executive agencies of the federal government.

At least one Democratic candidate for president, Marianne Williamson, and several newspaper columnists have asserted that the 2020 Presidential Election will not be about programs and policies. It will be more about morals, values and spiritual things, rather than policies, programs and material things. I think they are right, I was going to write this column entirely about the main issues in the 2020 election campaigns – which I will mention briefly, again, in this column. But, this election will be a referendum on what kind of a country we have, and what kind of a country – and world – we will leave to our children.

Will this campaign and the candidates who are successful restore civility to our political discourse, and respect for each other as citizens of the United States? Will our elected representatives maintain high standards of honesty and decency, showing and demanding respect for all people? Or, will they continue dividing us by using fear of terrorism and hatred of immigrants, foreigners and people of color – a “divide and conquer” strategy, in order to win and maintain political power?

The real choice in 2020 is between fear and hate on the one hand, and respect and compassion on the other. It is up to us, the voters, to determine which side the candidates are on, and which side we want to be on. The choice is ours to make. I hope we choose wisely. Not too long ago, a Republican president called for America to be a “kinder, gentler nation.” Another Republican president described himself as a “compassionate conservative." During the past two and a half years, we haven't heard anything like that coming from the president or any Republicans in congress. Why is that?

The political class – those holding power or running for office – have a lot of work to do to restore trust in our government, as well as our respect for them and our respect for each other. It appears that some of us no longer see the importance of keeping our representative democracy and the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. Our basic freedoms are under assault; freedom of the press is being attacked by some of us, including the president who often calls it “fake news.” Where is all this going?

Some of us think the government is part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Government can and should have a role in solving our political, economic and social problems. Our representative democracy lies between anarchy (i.e., chaos) on one side, and dictatorship on the other. Those are the main choices we have. This choice should be a no-brainer.

Here are my top 10 issues facing our country in 2020 and beyond. 1. Reduce gun violence – often against children – by requiring background checks for all gun purchases and banning military-style assault weapons; 2. Provide affordable health insurance for all Americans; 3. An economy that works for everyone (not just the rich and big corporations) through tax reform and a raise in the minimum wage; 4. An affordable college or trade school education for everyone who wants one; 5. Strengthen and expand the Social Security system so every worker can have pension and retirement; 6. Reform the criminal justice system so we don't have one system of justice for rich people and another system of justice for regular people, also reducing sentences for victimless crimes and reducing our nation's overall prison population – the highest in the world (there should be no privately-run, for-profit prisons); 7. Reform our electoral system to prohibit unlimited, secret campaign contributions from corporations and special interests, prevent partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts, repeal state voter suppression laws; 8. Provide full federal funding to rebuild our nation's crumbling infrastructure – roads, bridges, tunnels, railroads, schools, water and waste treatment facilities, etc.; 9. Work with other countries to minimize the destruction caused by climate change/global warming (some countries already are experiencing severe food shortages, while other countries are experiencing severe water shortages), and 10. Join other nations to eliminate all nuclear weapons from the earth.

The people and the Congress have a lot of work to do. If we all work together, it can be done. Let's stop fiddling and get busy.