As a very wise woman (ahem, my wife) pointed out to me, the second presidential debate at Hofstra University could be summed up this way:
Question: "What are you going to do for me (or my group)?"
Answer: "Here's what I'm going to do for you ..."
(See the full debate transcript here.)
This particular Town Hall set up, with the audience made up of undecided voters, lent itself to this outcome, I guess. But is it really the case that no undecided voters are wondering about how we are going to create a better society? How we are going to begin to tackle big long-term issues today, to create a better future for generations yet to come?
The Washington Post got it exactly right in its editorial:
As a guide to actions either man might take in response to the biggest challenges he will face, the debate -- like most of this campaign -- was close to useless. Someone tuning in for the first time Tuesday night might assume that the principal conundrums of the next term will be how to lower taxes on the middle class and how to mine more coal.
We must call forth from our leaders things bigger than our own self-interests.
As this clip of debate moderator Candy Crowley shows, apparently there might have been at least one person in the audience who was ready to do just that and ask a question about climate change.
CROWLEY: "I had that question for all of you climate change people ... We just, you know, again, we knew that the economy was still the main thing so you knew you kind of wanted to go with the economy."
Leaving aside the fact that tackling climate change would stimulate all kinds of investment in clean tech that would grow our economy sustainably right now, this comment suggests that if something didn't fit into this box Crowley thinks of as "the economy," it doesn't matter -- at least not enough to merit a question at a presidential debate.
Improving the economy and creating jobs is certainly one way to create a better future, and that's all the candidates seemed to want to talk about (and apparently all Crowley thought important). But it isn't the sum total.
There was one group from our community present at Hofstra for the second presidential debate that is trying to create a better future for all. Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (Y.E.C.A.) held a rally on campus, praying that the candidates would pledge to make overcoming global warming a top priority.
After the debate, Y.E.C.A.'s spokesperson, Ben Lowe, said that they were "disappointed but not discouraged." That's because their hope is in the Lord.
I am privileged to serve as an advisor to Y.E.C.A., and was there praying with them. Their faith inspires me.
Our country can be better, and Y.E.C.A. is showing the way. And just maybe their faithfulness, and that of others, will inspire the candidates to discuss what they are going to do about climate change in this final debate.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is author of 'Global Warming and the Risen LORD.'