Get Ready for Earn Our Votes: Questions and conversation starters

BlogHer Original Post

Updated: Now that Cooper and Emily have kicked off our spirit of activism with the unveiling of BlogHers Act's global issue, I want to remind both BlogHer conference attendees and site visitors that tomorrow at 10:30 am, the BlogHer community begins to develop its voter manifesto for 2008.

If you're planning to attend the session, here are some "thought starters": questions from BlogHer members and YouTube video submitters to get your thoughts churning. Thanks to Val Jones and Zoe Chafe for helping to put these together.

Earn Our Votes ’08: Conversation starters

Below, you will see sample questions posed both by the BlogHer audience, and the audience watching the CNN/YouTube debate. These are examples to guide your discussions.

Remember: Good questions discourage bulls**t answers and they force candidates to give you an answer that allows them to EARN YOUR VOTE!!

Each breakout group needs to come back with 3 good questions. Happy plotting!

HEALTH CARE

The recent CNN/YouTube Democratic Debate featured the following healthcare questions:
• How will your healthcare plan address the needs of the aging population, specifically those with Alzheimer's, heart disease and diabetes?
• What will your healthcare plan do to address the need for affordable preventive medicine services?
• Does your healthcare plan cover undocumented workers?
• How do you intend to make sure that all Americans have some form of health insurance?
Various posts from BlogHer:

Affordability / Universality
• How can we pay for healthcare in US sustainably?
• How can we make sure that anyone in the US not only has access to healthcare, but can afford it?
• How do we weed out those who choose not to have healthcare from those who desperately need it?
• How can we make healthcare a right, not a privilege, for every citizen?
• How can we mandate that all children in the US are insured?
• How do we protect families from insurance companies who deny claims in the face of a health crisis?
Women's Issues
• How can we ensure increased access to family planning?
• How do we get birth control to be covered universally under health insurance policies?
• How do we achieve "scientific fairness" to women?
• How can we make women's and children's health issues a priority?
• How do we improve health education for women and children?
• How can we make childbirth and maternity leave less of a burden for working mothers? Especially as disability insurance is not offered to all nor is it usually enough. Women can afford to take time off after having a child.
• Can a woman's reproductive rights be protected in US healthcare?
Ethics / Technology
• How can we ensure everyone has the same access to the same tests and treatments?
• How can we protect research, such as stem cell research, that has the possibility to wipe out diseases?

ENVIRONMENT

Sample questions for candidates

1. Clean air, healthy bodies: The US is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world and many of our cities have dangerously polluted air. How will your policies help clear the air—to keep us and our children more healthy?

2. Less waste: Several cities recently banned plastic bags because of their environmental impact; others have invested in recycling programs. How would you help minimize personal and industrial waste, and encourage composting and recycling?

3. Growing “clean” technology: The US uses about 25% of the world’s oil, but could create jobs by investing in “clean” technologies. How would you support the creation of “environmental jobs”—those jobs that could come from new energy technologies?

4. Climate change: With little federal action against climate change, cities and states around the country are taking leadership by pledging to reduce their carbon emissions. Will you follow their lead and set targets for reducing US carbon emissions?

5. Safe food: Much of our food travels a long, mysterious journey to get to us. With avian flu, mercury in fish, and other contamination scares, how will your policies improve the quality of our food?

6. Preparing for disaster: Wetlands, mangroves, and coral reefs protect us from storms and waves. Forests prevent erosion. Urban trees cool the “concrete jungle”. Would your disaster preparedness policies include protection of these natural defenses?

Resources:

• “Good Eating” Food Blog: www.worldwatch.org/node/3938
• “Dispatches from the Youth Climate Movement”: itsgettinghotinhere.org
• Renewable Energy for America: www.americanenergynow.org
• “Beyond Disasters”: www.worldwatch.org/node/5111
• Treehugger: Sustainable News and Living Tips: www.treehugger.com
• Grist: Environmental News and Humor: www.grist.org

IRAQ AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS

• How do we really end the war in Iraq and building [sic] the U.S. reputation as a generous, peace-promoting international partner?

• “My issue is the is the war on terror [to make sure we] get in there and do the job right. Wherever we have to go. Just saying we don't want war and want to be peaceful is not going to stop people from killing us.”

• “How will they rebuild our standing in the world as a country interested in peace, while at the same time protecting our interests both here and abroad”?

• “How will the candidates deal with Iraq, Iran and the rest of the Middle East nations, and is there a strategy for turning Iraq and Afghanistan into viable nations”?

• “[How do you propose to create] A foreign policy that looks beyond domination to building relationships and focusing on the future of this country in the context of other emerging economic superpowers in the world, as opposed to a cowboy nation seeking to impose our culture in places where it is not wanted or appropriate”?

Questions from the CNN/YouTube debate:

• “My question for all the candidates: How do we pull out now? And
the follow-up, are we watching the same blankin' war? I certainly
wasn't a big fan of the invasion/liberation. It sickens me to hear
about soldiers wounded and getting killed daily, not to mention
innocent Iraqis, but how do we pull out now? The government's shaky;
bombs daily.

Don't you think if we pulled out now that would open it up for
Iran and Syria, God knows who -- Russia -- how do we pull out now?
And isn't it our responsibility to get these people up on their feet?
I mean, do you leave a newborn baby to take care of himself? How do
we pull out now”?

• “The 2006 election gave the Democrats in office a mandate to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Since that time, 800 of our military service members have died there….How many more soldiers must die while these political games
continue in our government?

”Is the reason why we are still in Iraq and seemingly will be for
some time due to the Democrats' fear that blame for the loss of the
war will be placed on them by the Republican spin machine”?

ECONOMIC FUTURE

• Helping Small Businesses: “Women are the majority of small business owners. How are your policies going to help sustain women as they build these businesses, which are crucial to driving our economy forward”?

• Student Loan System in Crisis: “Student loans have recently been proven to be corrupt, and dangerous for many students- and yet they are necessary for many people who seek higher education. How are you going to help fix this broken system”?

• Wages Flat for all but the Mega Rich: “What are you going to do to flatten the huge disparity between the mega-rich and the middle class? “Basic economic freedom is considered the ability to work and have financial independence- and so many middle class Americans can no longer achieve this”?

• What do families do if child care costs make working difficult? For many working women, the huge costs of child care just get in the way of success. Child care is so expensive, many women are damned if they do (work), damned if they don't (work). Are you going to demand federally-sponsored child care?

• “What policies will you propose that encourage part-time positions for people (not just parents) who need or require more balance in their lives? The FMLA system is a bandaid. When you have a seriously ill child, you need more than 12 weeks unpaid leave, but you can't lose your job because that is where the insurance is!!”

• Cost of globalization: “…it's truly a global economy. More and more jobs are off-shored. Top technology companies like Cisco are requiring those who want to be future leaders to live and work in places like India, China, Russia etc. if they want to be considered for future promotion to the executive ranks. What's the US' position in the global economy? What should be done to ensure that the US can achieve and maintain that position”?

• US energy innovation: “ The next big thing is going to be technologies/transportation that do not run on gas/oil. What if America put her shoulder to the wheel and became a leader much as we did in the space race? We need real leadership to set this as a goal and go for it. I always shake my head when I hear (car) companies whine that it's going to hurt them. Oh really? Technological innovation will help our American economy if WE KEEP IT HERE. If you want this race to go to China/India, believe me, they'll be happy to step up.”

CNN/YouTube question:

• “… we're from Pennsylvania, and my question is to all
the candidates, and it's regarding the national minimum wage.
Congress seems to never have a problem when it comes time to give
themselves a raise. But when it came time to increase the minimum
wage, they had a problem.

My question to the candidates: If you're elected to serve, would
you be willing to do this service for the next four years and be paid
the national minimum wage”?

So, starting tomorrow, we build our burning questions for presidential candidates to answer. Here are the four topics BlogHers want answered most:

Health Care
Environment and Global Warning (see speaker Zoe Chafe's post on this)
Iraq
Our Economic Future

As I sit here in a full conference room at BlogHer, listening to the amazingly inspiring Carol Lin talk about her new cancer online community, and her own stories of fighting against her husband's cancer, I know our community has the power to make candidates perk up their ears. I know if health care is the no. 1 issue the BlogHer community cares about, we will pose questions to presidential candidates in 2008 and we will get answers.

Starting tomorrow, we will distill burning questions candidates simply have to answer (not dance around) to earn our votes. I hope if you're at the BlogHer Conference you join the session tomorrow at 10:30, and if you're online, please join us in an online open thread on BlogHer. This is just the start of a long discussion.

After all, candidates need to earn our votes! Let's give them some tough questions.

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