With four debates behind us, the media has failed to ask how candidates will lead so that every child in our country can be successful. Our children’s future should be the focus of the next debate.
There are 74 million children in the U.S. today who are too young to vote. But, their well-being and ability to thrive are among the most important contributors to a strong economy, democracy– even to our national security. For our country to continue to lead and be successful, we need to ensure that the next generation is supported to reach its full potential.
As longtime child advocates, we have worked for decades to push policymakers to put children’s issues high on their agendas.
But, as we enter the 2020 campaign season in earnest, we are not alone in wanting to know where candidates stand on ensuring a strong future for our children. In fact, voters say they care a lot:
A recent poll of Iowa voters found improving the well-being of children is the top priority — higher even than creating jobs and improving the economy, which was the top priority in a similar poll done during the 2016 presidential election cycle. The new poll found that “80% of Iowa voters believe ‘improving the health, education, and wellbeing of children’ is a high priority that presidential candidates need to address.”
And as Vox reported, suburban voters have deep concerns about what the future has in store for their children. They’re worried about things like rising health care costs and education—about whether their kids will be able to afford college, and whether they will be able to find a job once they graduate.
But you wouldn’t know that voters care about babies, children, and their families from the questions media representatives asked during the Democratic presidential candidates’ debates.
Debate questioners from the media should represent all of us with their questions, and they can and should help focus the public agenda in ways that voters care about.
As Theodore H. White wrote in The Making of the President, 1972, “The power of the press is a primordial one. It determines what people will think and talk about—an authority that in other nations is reserved for tyrants, priests, parties, and mandarins.”
The press should use its power to ask candidates to “think and talk” about how they will lead so every child is successful and so that every voter can see who will best lead for future generations.
Some candidates themselves have plans for children and families and are eager to talk about them. In Iowa, advocates for children are demonstrating how the media can better serve us all by asking the Presidential candidates what they plan to do for children and publicizing their answers. But this important work needs to be amplified by the media so all Americans know what the candidates plan for children.
Here are some things we think the moderators should ask the candidates at the next debate in September:
- How will you demonstrate moral leadership and the values important for teaching children respect and good citizenship in a democracy?
- How will you address the unique needs children have when it comes to their health coverage and care so they can grow up healthy—both mentally and physically?
- How do you plan to help families get quality and affordable child care? And how will you enact Pre-K for every three- and four-year-old in the country?
- How will you lead on kindergarten to 12th-grade education so our children remain competitive in the global economy?
- How do you plan to make higher education and jobs skills training accessible and affordable to America’s young people?
- How will your administration tackle the unique impact on children that other major challenges present, even if they’re not always called “kids’ issues”—like climate change, poverty, gun safety, the opioid epidemic, and making sure that no child’s zip code defines their possibilities?
- How will your administration be accountable for the well-being of the nation’s children? How will you report progress to the American people?
American voters deserve to know the answers to these questions. And the media has a responsibility to ask them.