I was watching the Democratic candidates for president debate the other night. I kept thinking about that old Maine saying, “You can’t get there from here.” All the candidates were making promises, some of which I liked better than others, some of which they might have been prepared to keep. But here’s the thing that confuses me: When a candidate says that he or she will do this or that thing, it seems to me that, even if elected, he or she will have no power to just do it.

The way our government is designed, Congress has to enact legislation and the president signs and executes the laws they pass. For instance, I love Bernie Sanders’ idea about universal health care, but I can’t see it being passed by Congress. If Mitch McConnell is still there, then forget about it. I wish Bernie would give some indication of how he plans to bring it all about. It’s not any different for Trump; he’s frustrated because he can’t get funding to build the stupid wall he promised his supporters.

What I wish these candidates would say is, “This is what I would like to have happen and this is how I plan to try to bring it about, and what’s more, here’s how you can help.”

Democracy isn’t a matter of one vote on election day. If we want change to happen we have to do everything in our power to advocate for it. In the face of climate change, we need radical transformation. We need someone in power who can inspire us and make us believe that big change can really happen. A president is powerless without the people.


Abby Shahn