Dear Barack, Hillary, John and Mitt (front-runners' names in alphabetical order. Infer no preference):
Happy "Super-Duper" Tuesday! It's the day you've all been working toward. I wish each of you well.
Some people have groused about the length of this presidential campaign season. I must confess. I'm one of them. But I now realize that months on the campaign trail separate the winners from the also-rans. Running for president of the United States isn't a game for wimps. After today, with nearly half of the nation conducting primary elections or caucuses, the field of four may be effectively reduced to two. Or this summer's party conventions could be barnburners. Either way, one of you will be elected the 44th president of the United States on Nov. 4.
So I thought I'd impose my to-do list on you a few months early a little something for you to think about on those long plane and bus rides that lie ahead.
First off, you've got to deal with immigration. Congress has failed to deliver a cogent immigration policy. Many members of Congress are running scared of the anti-immigration lobby. For that matter, a good many presidential candidates parse their words when it comes to this issue.
But the federal government has got to act. Because the federal government has failed to act aside from starting to build a border fence and throwing a few more resources at the issue the states are attempting to take on the issue themselves. The result has been a hodgepodge of laws, some born out of deep concern over the issue and others that have a racist taint.
These debates divide communities. They send people further underground. They render people more prone to exploitation because victims don't dare involve the authorities, whether it's an employment issue or domestic violence.
None of these trends are healthy. I had hope when a bipartisan coalition of federal lawmakers came together to draft an immigration reform proposal. The anti-immigration lobby is such a squeaky wheel some members of Congress have been reluctant to lead out on this issue. I had hoped that a coalition approach would dilute these groups' stranglehold.
I think most people are of agreement that the borders need to be secure. My greater concern is how we treat the 12 million or so undocumented workers in our midst. Many of them come from families that have mixed immigration status. We can't round up and ship out illegal immigrants because we'll break up a lot of families in the process. What happens after we deport Mom and/or Dad? Send the kids, who are citizens, to foster care? It gives me chills to think about it.
Even if you don't grasp the human dimensions of this issue, the economic impacts of this population cannot be underestimated. Utah's unemployment rate is under 3 percent. We need these workers. We need a means for them to work legally in this country, laws that protect them and their employers and ensure that the workers pay taxes and contribute toward other programs such as workers compensation insurance and Social Security.
Second, you've got to either eliminate or drastically overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act. It's been a good program in the respect that it has made schools accountable for the education of students that have been traditionally underserved. But the states have become so worried about making the grade some have gone so far as to cook the books to ensure their testing programs indicate they're leaving no children behind. Suddenly, Lake Wobegon is in every state.
Some states have responded to this mandate by lowering their standards to the point that nearly everyone is making adequate yearly progress. How this helps American students, in an increasingly globalized world, is beyond me.
Last, as boring as it may sound, the next president must lead out on Social Security and health-care reform. These are difficult, technical issues. But for baby boomers like me, these are important issues. Thanks to advances in medical science and public health, we will live a lot longer than previous generations. Our retirements will look different than those of our parents, which is probably a good thing. But will there be sufficient resources to pay people the Social Security benefits they accrued over the years? Will the government be forced to cut benefits or push dates of eligibility? Will the Medicare model be relevant in the coming years?
These are weighty issues. And I have to hand it to you that you are willing to put yourself through the buzz saw of presidential politics to have the "opportunity" to take on these matters.
May the best man or woman win today and in November. But don't expect a honeymoon. After this long, expensive campaign, Americans will expect you to hit the ground running.
Marjorie Corteza Utah voter
Marjorie Cortez, who looks forward to joining you at the polls today, is a Deseret Morning News editorial writer. E-mail her at [email protected]