National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) director Scott Clemons suggested the following as possible issues for development into deliberative frameworks. We welcome your comments and additional information about these issues.
With our first black President, our prospective on racism and our sensibilities may have changed. The protracted discussion about the President’s birth certificate, however, suggests that the issue is still ripe for a national conversation. Comments by talk radio personalities and the sudden termination of Shirley Sherrod for supposedly discriminatory remarks give further credence to this.
Fragmentation of Government
- Structural Disconnect - As Government has grown and new agencies have emerged there seems to be a growing separation between government agencies. An example would be the expansion and creation of new intelligence agencies since 9/11. When natural disasters occur, there is a lack of communication and coordination between responding agencies. Likewise there is often a disconnect between the federal and state governments. We see examples of decisions based on turf protection and what is in the best interests of the agency as opposed to the interests of the effected people.
- Partisan/Philosophical Disconnect - Partisan posturing has been a part of our politics since the birth of our nation. Today, however, it seems to be more heated and caustic than ever before. Great leaders of the past criticized the opposition party and angled for good headlines. Then, they rolled up their sleeves, negotiated, compromised and found a solution based on the interests of the greater good. It seems that talk radio, and 24 hour cable has polarized us even more, leaving policy makers hesitant to compromise in fear of being labeled weak. It would be healthy to have a national discussion about this fragmentation. Items A (Structural) and B(Partisan) could be framed and discussed together or separately.
The Role of a Citizen
In recent years political discussions have been dominated by questions about what Government should or should not be doing for us. Little is said about what we should do for government and our country (or state). Voter turnout is extremely low and people seem less likely to educate themselves on the important issues of the day. It’s time that we as a country have a conversation about our role as citizens.
Our Relationship with the Muslim world
Our natural inclination is to feel more comfortable with those who look like us and worship like us. The growing Muslim population in the US, has led to discrimination and tension. The attacks on 9/11 have inflamed the situation, to say the least. We now face military entanglements in two Muslim countries, and are in the midst of a “Global War on Terror” which many people only associate with followers of Islam. It is important that we talk about our relationship with Muslims on a local, national and international level.