Mike Franken, Democratic hopeful for US Senate, delivered his closing arguments for his candidacy Friday night in Waterloo.
Franken, who’s running against longtime Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, talked about rising extremism and the state of American democracy at the “Don’t Sleep on Iowa” candidate forum hosted by Iowa Starting Line.
Franken said the key to making America’s democracy stronger would be to make voting easier. It could mean removing barriers to registering and casting a ballot, possibly making election day a national holiday and adding more time for people who can’t make it to the polls.
“We can do this as a nation, we can change it, it’s ours,” he said.
Some of the other issues, Franken said, include the amount of money in politics and how much money it takes for a person to run in the first place.
“Certainly, Citizens United and the manner in which we can hide money for elected leaders and have advocacy groups that pay $1.2 million hit ads on your opponent,” he said. “This is not good for society. We need to fix this.”
Franken, a former US Navy admiral, also pulled on his overseas experience of witnessing countries and systems that aren’t democracies. He said the biggest thing they all had in common was how they held back the potential of their societies.
“Every situation, whether it’s tribal, whether it’s religious, nationalistic color of skin, language, demographics, etc,” he said. “You will always hold back society and it takes decades to recover from that.”
To avoid that, Franken said Americans need to come together, pay attention to issues, and hold leaders accountable for what they do about those issues.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment to turn the tide, one election at a time,” he said.
But the other way to ensure America remains a strong world leader is to increase fairness across the board and to value empathy and civil rights. And he said he knows, from multiple events he’s done, that Iowans care about each other.
Abortion, for example, he said comes up from an unexpected source at his events nowadays.
“Today, it comes up oftentimes with young men,” Franken said. “‘What are you going to do for my daughter, my wife, the fact that I feel so damn guilty because we’re treating those women in my life as not equal partners.’”
“This is an issue. This is a huge issue in America. It’s reason to codify it,” he said. “Let’s let women choose.”
And, overall, Franken said we need a change in leadership, and a change in what kinds of leadership are valued.
“We need young blood, new blood, broader perspective, more empathy, harder nose for those with power,” Franken said.
“There’s a couple of qualities that we should look for in leadership that we don’t give high enough credence to,” he continued. “One is empathy and the other is leadership. And not leadership that’s ‘I will only step forward if it’s a safe thing to do. I shirk from it all’. But stand up there and take the shot and be the one to speak truth to power.”
by Nikoel Hytrek
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