CNN plans to set debate lineup reminiscent of sports (copy)

Democratic presidential candidates from left, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice-President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., are seen June 27 on the second night of the Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News in Miami.

Neighboring Michigan hosts the second round of Democratic presidential primary debates starting today, and we hope many of the questions will reflect Midwestern concerns.

When 20 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination debated in Florida last month, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California faulted former Vice President Joe Biden for opposing federal mandates on school busing decades ago.

But does busing still make sense today for disadvantaged children in communities such as Madison, where most schools are now diverse? Justified Anger, a group of black leaders here, has asked the Madison School District to reduce busing so more black children can attend elementary schools in their neighborhoods, and so parents can have better access to teachers and school events. They convincingly contend this will improve learning and narrow achievement gaps along racial and economic lines.

Would any of the Democrats running for president allow more flexibility for that? Or would their U.S. Department of Education object to ending bus routes if schools become less integrated?

We’d like to know.

The Midwest’s worker shortage is another important concern. Like Michigan, Wisconsin is graying fast. Older folks are living longer. Young couples are having fewer babies. Many employers are struggling to find employees to expand their businesses and the economy.

What will the Democratic candidates do about our shrinking labor pool? Will they significantly increase legal immigration? Will they allow more flexible visas for dairy farm workers?

They should.

Wisconsin exports have fallen sharply this year, with farmers and manufacturers hit hard by President Donald Trump’s trade wars.

Mexico retaliated against Trump’s tariffs by imposing a 25% tax on Wisconsin cheese crossing the southern U.S. border.

Will the Democrats reinforce or reverse Trump’s protectionist aggression that pits nations against one another and pretends the economy is a zero-sum game?

Many of the Democratic hopefuls have proposed elaborate spending plans, including “Medicare for All” and free college tuition for even rich families. A moderator at this week’s debates should remind the candidates that somebody has to pay for the nation’s soaring deficit and debt — our children and grandchildren.

A good question would be: Name something expensive the federal government does that you support, but which our nation can no longer afford?

Another question should focus on the Great Lakes. Specifically, will the candidates support a permanent separation between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins, as nature intended. Chicago canals provide a path for voracious Asian carp and other invaders to enter the Great Lakes and Wisconsin waterways, upsetting aquatic food chains and ecosystems.

What about clean energy? Will the next president insist on more renewable energy to address climate change — even if solar and wind farms rile neighboring property owners?

They should.

This week’s debates will be held in the Midwest and should focus on Midwestern concerns. Wisconsin and Michigan are two of the most competitive states in next year’s election. The eventual Democratic nominee must understand and stick up for America’s Heartland if he or she wants to win in 2020.


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