Bankole: What a Detroit presidential debate should focus on

Bankole Thompson

The field of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president continues to expand as former Vice President Joe Biden is slated to become the latest addition in a race of more than 20 candidates.

But as the candidates make campaign stops around the nation trying to convince primary voters they have the chops to unseat President Donald Trump, the issues they are running on will be key to any presidential upset next year.  

Former vice president Joe Biden talks with officials after speaking at a rally in support of striking Stop & Shop workers in Boston, Thursday, April 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

And as they prepare to come to Detroit for a presidential debate July 30-31, the issues that are pertinent to the state and the city will take center stage. It is an opportunity for the candidates to move beyond the national headlines and campaign sloganeering and specifically speak to the kitchen table issues affecting Detroiters and the rest of Michigan.

Detroiter Tammy McCrory, 33, who is politically active, is very excited that the candidates will be debating here. But she wants Democrats to bring what she calls “progressive” solutions to the mountain of issues facing cities like Detroit.  

“I am hoping that the candidates have an urban agenda prepared and ready to discuss. Here in Detroit we have a number of issues affecting our quality of life and I would like them to focus on public safety and public education,” McCrory said. “Right now, Detroit has one of the nation’s highest crime rates and despite all the local efforts the numbers are still staggering.”

For Erica M. Foondle, 41, who grew up in Detroit and now lives in Grosse Pointe Farms, the candidates must work to guarantee fairness in the economy.

“I would like to see each candidate focus on leveling the playing field for every working-class citizen, increase the minimum wage, focus on affordable health care, not necessarily Medicare for all, but allow the poor and working class to stand a chance,” Foondle said.

Like McCrory, Foondle, also wants solutions to the crisis of public education.

“The most important piece they need to focus on is public education in an equitable way,” Foondle said. “Every child should have the opportunity to receive a strong and equitable public education. Come with a solid platform on public education, not just a campaign slogan.”  

Emmet Mitchell, who runs the Milestones Agency, a mentoring program for young black boys in Detroit, wants to see more investment in that area.

“An intentional and methodical investment in resources and opportunities for black boys is key,” Mitchell said. “I don't believe the president would ever draft legislation specifically for black boys, but we at least need to have the discussion.”

But Mitchell also wants the issue of reparations for black enslavement to be a focus of the debate. The issue has taken on an added significance this year, which marks the 400th anniversary of when the first African slaves arrived in Jamestown in 1619.

“Reparations as a means to bridge the equality gap between those who have suffered, and those who have leveraged the resources from the suffering,” should be thoroughly discussed, according to Mitchell. “Rhetoric is not enough. The candidate that develops a logical model to see this through should be seriously considered.”

Lakeysha Locke, 44, of East Lansing wants the candidates to zero in on gun violence in urban areas.  

“There is a direct connection between crime and economics. If people in impoverished communities had fair-wage jobs, they could provide for their families,” Locke said. “Not having resources causes one to commit crimes and harm those with the resources in order to provide for their families. People want to work. If they don't have jobs, they are left to do harm to those around them. This is fixable. People deserve hope and to live free of violence.”

Colton Dale, 26, a Democratic activist, said the debate in Detroit should focus on real life issues.

“I would like the candidates to focus on real policy ideas regarding how they would tackle some of the country's most pressing issues, such as student debt, income inequality, and climate change,” Dale said. “Much of the discourse so far has been around philosophy and personality, which only does so much for candidates in terms of breaking through the crowded field. If we as a party want to ensure that we nominate the best Democrat to beat Donald Trump in 2020, candidates will have to start getting specific about what they want to do and how they want to do it.”

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

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