This year’s presidential election has been shaped by crises: Protests over police brutality and systemic racism. Fears about safe voting and election integrity. And above all, the devastating human and economic toll of the coronavirus.
Inevitably, many political issues have been overshadowed. We asked readers what topics they would like to hear President Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. discuss at the final presidential debate on Thursday — what they believed had gotten short shrift so far in the race, or should be discussed in more depth.
The responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
Alison Kendall of Santa Monica, Calif.:
I’m an architect and planner, and I want to ask the presidential candidates about topics related to climate change and economic recovery.
We are experiencing more and more natural disasters linked to climate change, and the U.S. has one of the highest per capita uses of energy and “carbon footprints” in the world.
What policies will you implement to make U.S. homes, cars, businesses and government facilities more energy efficient and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and climate change?
Gina Hardin of Denver:
As Colorado and the West Coast are again experiencing record fires; record floods devastated the Midwest last year; storms are getting stronger and more damaging; and the country is suffering from a choking drought, climate change and the candidates’ level of commitment to addressing it has hardly been mentioned. Though Trump still denies that it’s human-caused, he should nevertheless have strategies for minimizing it. What are these?
Dennis Lees of Eugene, Ore.:
I would like to see a very strong emphasis on climate change.
I’d like to hear (1) what each candidate’s position and beliefs are regarding the issue of climate change as a serious problem (or not?).
And (2) what do they know about the impact of climate change on the rest of the world and why should we care? For instance, the island nations that are at risk of being swallowed up by rising sea levels, the urgency felt by most of the rest of the world that resulted in the Paris Accord, and why it matters to us.
I’d also like to (3) hear specific steps each candidate will take to address climate change as a very urgent problem facing not just America but the world. What real and specific steps will they pledge to take?
If we don’t address climate change now, in the long run nothing else matters. Our children and theirs will be left with an essentially uninhabitable planet, at least as we know life today.
Deborah Roher of New Bedford, Mass.:
Wealth inequality. Somehow this subject has become decoupled from discussion of “the economy.”
Solveig Spjeldnes of Athens, Ohio:
The effects of income inequality are directly and indirectly responsible for the divisions on our nation. The negative effects on physical and mental health, trust, violence, unity, and other social welfare issues are profound, and we are going in the wrong direction.
Rachel Scherer of Tampa, Fla.:
I would like to hear more from both candidates on the topic of women’s issues, specifically the potential of Roe v. Wade being overturned, and if they have any plans dedicated to creating more gender equality.
Hillary Harvey Kingston of New York:
From Joe Biden’s benevolent sexism to Donald Trump’s alleged sexual assault and outright misogyny, both candidates owe American women (cis, trans and gender nonconforming) an explanation of what they will do to improve our lives over the next four years. This is an opportunity to model for millions of American men what it looks like when men hold themselves accountable to generational shifts and take responsibility in the fight against systemic sexism in America.
Debra Wood of Fleetwood, N.C.:
I would like to hear from both candidates on health care, and not just insurance, but addressing the entire problem of cost and quality of health care in the U.S.
As a person who was basically self-insured ($13,000 deductible) except for catastrophic events for years before the A.C.A. was passed, I struggled to get pricing and had to forgo preventive care procedures. Even now that I’m on Medicare, it is difficult to get medications at a reasonable price. There are underlying problems with our pharmaceutical, medical device, hospital industries that make getting care difficult for many.
Susan Kimmel of Washington:
What can the federal government do to help seniors’ health and well-being as they age? Social Security and Medicare are not enough for many people who are not prepared.
What would each candidate do to help this growing segment of society, which has suffered disproportionately during the pandemic?
Lorie Weinman of Gainesville, Fla.:
At one time, the United States had one of the best education systems in the world. I believe we have lost our edge. Teachers need pay increases; our students need supplies including basics like pencils, paper, and textbooks. I believe for our country to move forward, we must have the education system well funded, and children of all ages supplied with the tools necessary for them to learn. How will each of the candidates fund our education system, especially pre-K through 12?
Jerry Rothstein of New York:
I’d like to hear a discussion about what needs to be done to reverse the deterioration in American education with year-after-year declines in what our students know compared to those in other countries. To make our economy more competitive and to have young people able to get good jobs, we need to better educate our kids.
George F. DeStefano of Rochester, Minn.:
Roads and bridges are falling apart. Our electricity grid and the internet are vulnerable to attack. We are not preparing to step into and lead into the future. We are clinging to an idealized, never happened, past. This is the only issue that matters.
Lexie de Fremery of Sandpoint, Idaho:
One issue that has been conspicuously absent is laws and regulations regarding campaign financing: PACs, dark money, limits on spending, and so on. What about overturning Citizens United?
Alyce Parmer of Fernandina Beach, Fla.:
One of the topics rarely discussed is cybersecurity. How about this question?
America’s security is as much dependent on robust cybersecurity as it is on our ability to defend on sea, land and air. Please rank the following in your military spending priorities — what do you think are the highest priorities for military spending and why?
Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Space Force, cybersecurity.