During the 2008 presidential campaign, Personal Democracy Forum was disappointed by the media’s attempt to engage candidates by voters in the CNN YouTube debates. Although the debates featured questions from the public, they were filtered by professional journalists and were met with canned responses from the candidates. In order to remove the barriers between candidates and voters, PdF launched "10Questions" in September 2007, inviting the public to post questions to candidates and then to vote on those questions. After candidates responded, the public could vote again on whether they had offered a sufficient answer to the questions. 10Questions uses a smart interactive platform and includes demographics that would otherwise be sidelined in the political conversation. Now 10Questions has been relaunched for the midterm elections and activists, organizations and individuals have posted questions to the candidates who are willing to go on the record. Here are the top ten issues gathered by PdF, and what you can do about it. What’s the most pressing community issue you want your candidates to address? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Economy. Not surprising, given continued high unemployment. The emphasis was on taxes (20 percent of economy questions) and job creation (17 percent). Ohio showed a strong interest in questions about industry regulation. For more on how to invest in communities, and to support and invest in organizations that do so, go to Community Invest.
2. Education. North Carolina and Florida were the only states without questions about education. In Pennsylvania there was much higher interest on education than in other states (almost 40 percent, compared to second-place Georgia, with 14.75 percent). Watch the film Waiting for Superman, read the critical article in The Nation, and join the discussion.
3. Governance. This includes questions about the legislative process, size of government, states’ rights, etc. North Carolina, Nevada and Arizona have a higher interest in this theme than other states. For more, check out the Alliance for Justice.
4. Elections. This category includes questions about campaign finance and redistricting. Elections issues actually outpace the economy in Minnesota and New York—the only states whose top theme was not the economy. Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and Nevada don’t have any questions about elections. Keep elections fair. For more, go to The Center For Public Integrity and report dirty campaign tricks.
5. Infrastructure. Improving public transportation was an important issue, especially in Georgia and Michigan. Infrastructure was the second-most-weighted theme in Michigan. Check out Reconnecting America to see how groups are organizing to improve transit systems in your city.
6. Drug policy. This was the number-two theme in California—not surprising, given the debate over Proposition 19, which proposes legalization of marijuana. Read The Nation‘s coverage on Prop 19 and go to Yes on Prop 19.
7. Environment. Ranked the number-one issue in Pennsylvania—only one of three states to rank anything other than the economy first, which ranked it higher than any other state by a long shot by weighted value (more than 30 percent of all weighted value for the state, way more than second-place New York, with 7.5 percent). Questions were centered around recent resource-management decisions and energy policy. Watch “Crude Justice” and support or join the Earth Institute.
8. Net neutrality. This issue is important in California, home to Silicon Valley, with 5.99 percent weight versus North Carolina’s second-place 3.1 percent. But it’s impossible to measure nationwide, as only three states—Michigan was the third—contained questions on it. Go to Save The Internet for more information. Follow the blog TechPresident.
9. Civil rights. Concern about this issue largely emanated from Florida, where it is that state’s second most important theme, after the economy and above governance. Florida’s top question is about convict voting rights. Across all forums, civil rights topics include marriage equality; "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell"; voting rights; etc. Abortion was brought up most often in New York. To stay up to date on news on voting rights for convicts, go to the ACLU’s Ex-Offenders: The Right to Vote and The Sentencing Project.
10. Foreign policy. This was the tenth top issue, and was of higher importance in Minnesota than in any other state. The majority of questions are on genocide prevention. There were also questions about "international wars" and international economic policy. For more information on genocide prevention, go STAND.
Conceived by Walter Mosley, with research by Rae Gomes
"Ten Things" is a monthly feature. Readers who wish to propose ideas for it should e-mail NationTenThings@gmail.com.