Friday, February 1, 2008

Let the games begin

Election season is upon us, and a few flicks through the cable news channels later, it seems like it’s forced on us much like wall-to-wall Britney Spears coverage.

But beyond the shallow 24-hour coverage of one candidate snubbing another, the multitude of debates is allowing for real issues to make their way into this year’s presidential campaign – the kind of issues that don’t always make it into mainstream debates held in the final weeks before elections.

Never was that more apparent than during this week’s Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Jan. 30. After Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul fended off the first few questions from CNN’s Anderson Cooper, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee didn’t take long to bring trucking into the fold.

“If you talk to people who are driving trucks across America today, their fuel prices are significantly higher than they were a year ago,” Huckabee said. “They’re hurting because they’re not making a lot more money to haul something, but they’re spending a lot more money to get it done.”

Another landmark statement followed questions from a Los Angeles Times reporter, who asked the GOP candidates whether they would support California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s implementation of a state greenhouse gas emission standard for cars.

Each candidate brought up global warming, with Romney, widely regarded as Wall Street’s candidate, acknowledging that our nation’s dependence on oil is “probably warming our environment.”

The trucking community is following global warming and greenhouse gas emission politics pretty closely, as those issues seem to be sparking idling and truck emission regulations like wildfire.

During the next day’s Democratic debates in Los Angeles, Clinton and Obama were asked about another issue that’s of consequence to truckers: immigration and the issuance of driver’s licenses to illegal aliens.

Hillary Clinton spoke of tightening U.S. borders, and cracking down “on employers who exploit workers, both those who are undocumented and those who are here as citizens, or legal.” Certainly truckers will be interested in following a series of federal busts of corrupt trucking schools and commercial driver’s license scams with ties to motor carriers.

Come November we’ll all be tired of the candidates and their messages. But if we pay attention and cast our ballots, we’ll be part of the solution and not the problem.