In my job, I travel and talk to Americans from all walks of life, coast to coast, Red America and Blue America. I hear their wisdom, ideas, frustrations and concerns.
But in today's media culture, the ideologues on both sides monopolize the airwaves and feed the impression that we are a nation hopelessly divided. But what amazes me is how such a diverse people, in different industries, professions and jobs, can share such common views. While we might vote for different candidates and get our news from different sources, most of us want the same things.
Here's what I've heard from so many Americans:
1. We Want a Better Future for Our Children
Americans want a better life for their children and are concerned that we're stealing our children's future. The opportunities we enjoyed growing up may not be there when our kids come of age. Instead of a nation where hard work and values can propel the deserving up, our children may face increasing barriers limiting how high they can rise.
2. We Want Honest Political Leaders Who Will Unite Us and Solve Problems
According to a recent Gallup poll, 86 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, a record high. This reflects what I hear while traveling. Our political leaders are not leading or solving national problems. Rather they tout party dogma. Americans want politicians who will put national interest over party interest. Most Americans are silent heroes, salt-of-the-earth people who teach our children, heal us, keep us safe, move our goods, and sell and service us, all while also caring for their own families. Americans are tired of partisan politicians fighting in Washington. Shouldn't politicians be enacting good policies instead of trying to score political points? It might sound naïve, but it's a reasonable question.
3. We Want the Government on Our Side
Americans think precious resources are lost fighting government over bad ideas. Almost every business, profession and industry in America is spending time and resources fighting new rules and questionable new proposals. In most countries government supports businesses -- in America our federal government is more often viewed as the enemy.
4. We Want Fact-Based, Meaningful Discussions on Important Issues
The numbers don't lie. Yet, our national leaders refuse to tell the truth about the worsening situation -- whether it's the deficit, entitlements, or the state of our crumbling infrastructure. One party recognizes the need to raise taxes but refuses to cut spending, while the other only wants to cut spending and will not even allow tax loopholes to be closed. Our "leaders" divide us and cater to what each political party's extremists want to hear. Politicians should agree on the facts and then have open discussions about policy alternatives.
5. We Want Common Sense to Trump Lawyers
Americans are dismayed at how our free society, which hinges on individual responsibility, is being ruined by our litigious culture. Kids have fewer playgrounds. Doctors over-test. Websites contain contracts that users must click and accept. Fly-by lawyers attack businesses under ruinous statutes. Americans go to jail for victimless crimes. Mandatory sentencing has replaced judicial judgment and filled our jails. Lawyers have taken over America and replaced civility and rationality, often destroying the fundamental liberties upon which our nation was based.
6. We Want a Safety Net for Any American
Americans are self-reliant -- and we are compassionate. We don't think any American should go hungry or be deprived of vital medical care. We want to protect our elderly and our children. But we want to separate the truly needy from those gaming the system. We want to have in place the right incentives to encourage self-reliance and a strong safety net.
7. We Want a Great America
Nearly every American I meet is patriotic and believes in American exceptionalism. They love America and want to make it better for their children. They can and will sacrifice if they believe in the leader, the plan and that others are also sacrificing.
What do these seven themes mean for our future?
Americans hunger for leaders who will attack our major problems head-on with candor and urgency. We can reverse course and address our big issues if we demand that our candidates speak honestly and answer the tough questions. Only then, with shared sacrifice, will our children stand a chance of a better life.
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times bestselling book ,"The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream."
Follow Gary Shapiro on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GaryShapiro
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