One question stood out to us. Jennifer Goldsmith, a resident of Brookline, wondered: “While we ask you about all range of policy positions, in reality most presidents are lucky to enjoy one single significant legislative success. Which major legislative act will you go to the mat for, do you want to be remembered for, and think you can achieve with some bipartisan support?”
You can see the candidates’ answers below. As Goldsmith noted when we shared these responses with her, the variety of answers — and the unwillingness of several candidates to name only one potentially legacy-defining cause — demonstrates “the overwhelming breadth of complex and challenging policy issues facing our nation.” We also agree with her assessment that “the visionary leader we need must not be wedded to unattainable ideals. They must be steadfast in their values but flexible in their tactics. I hope whoever assumes the presidency is unwavering in their drive to improve peoples’ lives; otherwise, we run the risk of striving for everything and accomplishing nothing.”
These answers from the candidates — in both personal interviews and e-mail responses — have been edited and condensed.
I believe climate change is the single greatest threat facing us today. According to top climate scientists, we must act immediately to dramatically cut our greenhouse gas emissions, or we will suffer irrevocable environmental and economic damage. We are long overdue for taking this threat seriously, due in large part to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by multinational fossil fuel corporations to protect their profits and inaction and even denial from Republicans in Congress. I will do what it takes to avert climate disaster.
We have many crises facing our country, from health care to education to income inequality. I believe we must be able to “walk and chew bubble gum at the same time” in combating them. But climate change must be at the top of the list. We have a moral responsibility to leave our kids a planet that is healthy and habitable. We cannot afford to wait any longer.
I’ll go to the mat for beating back the influence of money. Because if we can disrupt the influence of money, we can change so many other systems. Think of it this way: Whatever decision you care most about, whether it is health care or gun violence, whether it’s climate, whether it’s student loan debt, whether it’s childcare, if there is a decision to be made in Washington, it has been influenced by money. More than 90 percent of Americans want sensible gun legislation. And yet we can’t even get a vote in Washington. Why not? Can’t get a vote in Mitch McConnell’s Senate because of the influence of the gun industry. We can play this out over and over. People talk about climate change, but so long as money is calling the shots in Washington, so long as we continue to subsidize the oil industry and it’s the oil lobbyists who are spreading money around this place, we’re not going to be able to make the real change we need.
There’s more than one legislative act that I’ll go to the mat for, and I believe we can achieve bipartisan support on a range of policy proposals. But there’s nothing like health care when it comes to touching the personal lives of every American. Today, too many working families lie in bed at night staring at the ceiling wondering, “What will I do if she gets breast cancer?” or “if he has a heart attack?” “Will I go bankrupt?”
On my first day in office, I will send Congress legislation to protect and build on Obamacare and lower prescription drug prices and other health care costs. Obamacare was a big deal — and it still is! — but it was the beginning of the effort to cover all Americans, not the end. It’s time to finish the job. It will be a tough fight, maybe even tougher than the original fight, but we won control of the House in 2018 on the issue of Obamacare, and I truly believe we will be able to win the health care battle — again.
Let me mention three areas that I think require the most immediate attention. The first is the state of our democracy itself. Now, some of the things we can do very swiftly, the things that were contained in HR 1 [the bill to expand voting rights].
Two, climate change. We know that this is a global imperative. We also know that it will get addressed only if we can build a sense of a national project to deal with it, that diminishes the partisan energy around it. The third is racial and economic inequality and injustice in this country, because it has risen to the level of a national security vulnerability. It is harming the entire American project, in addition, of course, to those who are oppressed and losing out.
Climate change. Because that’s the most amorphous in terms of getting Republican support. You’re going to have to go to the mat on it. And then the other two things that I’ve said are my top priorities in the first year: Immigration reform, based on my experience, is something we can actually get done. Then you get to a combination of economic issues, and those include infrastructure.
I know my number one priority is climate, that we have to get this right.
I think we can do a lot of these rules, honestly, through regulation at the executive level. The bill that we’d really need is the money to rebuild the country in a sustainable fashion. That is the actual legislative bill that we need, with dollars. We have an urgent need to rebuild this country, in a sustainable way.
Great presidents have achieved more than one major legislative success, and I’m running for president because I know I can bring people together to achieve major victories on not one or two big issues, but a whole range of them, including health care, climate change, gun violence, immigration, and spreading good jobs and opportunity to places around the country that lack them.
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