"Make our democracy work.  Make your vote an informed one."

In each election there is  a particular mix of issues facing the country.  Is the economy doing well?  Is the nation at war?  Are our neighborhoods safe?

"Issues" can not be placed neatly into boxes; they are interconnected, complex, amorphous.  New permutations arise without warning.  Conflicting facts and statistics abound.  Different constituencies press in various directions.  There may be many valid or plausible approaches to addressing a specific problem.  At the same time, for many problems there are no simple solutions.  Resources are limited.  It may be easier simply to ignore a problem, to offer a sound bite, or to mobilize support for a quick fix, rather than addressing the situation head on.  A solution may itself have uninintended consequences.

The federal government cannot solve all problems; indeed the Constitution sets out a limited role for the federal government.  Progress depends as well on state and local governments, businesses, civic groups, religious institutions, and most importantly committed citizens working to improve the community and the country.  Indeed many problems are best handled at the local level, by the people who are most familiar with the situation.  Conversely, with globalization, issues increasingly cross national borders, necessitating cooperation among governments of different nations.

The expertise, experiences, and philosophy of the various candidates determine how they frame the challenges facing the country.  Interest groups will seek to interject their particular issues into the debate, which is as it should be.  For news organizations operating in a pop culture world, providing interesting and enlightening coverage of issues is a very difficult and challenging but essential task.  Ultimately, however, it is the responsibility of citizens to see to it that their concerns are addressed.  It behooves voters to get beyond the rhetoric and soundbites or the relative likeability of one candidate or another and consider the merits of the ideas the candidates are advancing.

The United States faces plenty of issues, big issues, with profound consequences on our quality of life.  Ask the candidates informed questions, and don't settle for empty rhetoric.

Constitution of the United States
National Constitution Center

Declaration of Independence



On the Issues
Project Vote Smart

Public Agenda
On Think Tanks - Directory

Harvard Kennedy School - Think Tank Search