Two names you probably haven’t heard until recently, if at all, should set the agenda of issues for the midterm elections.
While the elected leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties frequently frame the choice as a referendum on Donald Trump, there are urgent issues that need action and that will shape the United States long after Trump is gone.
Asking voters to decide only if Trump is clueless and corrupt certainly is worth debating, but it’s not the only crucial choice to be made this fall.
The two names Tom Steyer and Richard Painter are not elected officials of either party, but they have played background roles for years.
Steyer, who made his billions as a hedge-fund manager, “retired” from Wall Street and has used his fortune to back liberal candidates and causes. Steyer raised his national profile with television ads promoting his Need to Impeach campaign. Trump, Steyer claims, is reckless, lawless and dangerous.
Painter, who was George W. Bush’s chief ethics counsel in the White House, appears on cable news frequently arguing Trump should be impeached for violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause. Painter’s frequent TV appearances and Tweets to half-a-million followers criticize Trump as unethical and corrupt. Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, announced he’s running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate. He’s competing with Sen. Tina Smith in the August DFL primary. A lifelong Republican, Painter is running as a Democrat because he says the Republicans have “gone off the deep end.”
While the two men share the goal of seeing Trump impeached and removed from office, what they are saying about other issues offers an agenda for the fall and that will perhaps help Democrats focus on more than Trump’s fitness for office. Republicans too should tell voters where they stand on issues beyond loyalty to Trump.
Steyer recently spoke at a town hall in Minneapolis that was part of a nationwide tour and after making the case for impeachment, he answered questions about challenges facing the country.
Painter offered his list of key issues during a Q & A with voters last week.
Both men shape the fall debate on these issues:
• Health care.
• The environment, climate change and clean air and water.
• Education funding.
• Equal rights and racial disparity in jobs and income.
In addition, Steyer’s list includes protecting workers’ rights and unions. Painter zeros in on climate change by asking would you buy stock in a company whose leaders disregard science? And unlike other DFLers, Painter opposes on environmental grounds opening the Iron Range to copper-nickel mining.
The elected party leaders who have trouble focusing and advancing issues should take a look at what outsiders Steyer and Painter are talking about.
This election should not just be all about Trump.