5 California Debate Questions for Trump and Clinton

Rubber masks in the likeness of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a factory in Saitama, Japan.  (Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

Monday night's presidential debate isn't in California. In fact, the event at Hofstra University on Long Island is about as far from the Golden State as you can get within the continental U.S.

And we all know California won't be in play this November since every poll shows Hillary Clinton with double-digit leads over Donald Trump.

But California, with more than 10 percent of the nation's population, should at least be part of the discussion. Besides, NBC's moderator, Lester Holt, was born in Marin County.

So here are five questions with roots in California, or implications for us, that could be asked.

  1. Silicon Valley is hard at work developing driverless or self-driving vehicles. Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation released its first policy for them. And San Francisco-based Uber has already begun testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Given that so many middle-class jobs involve driving (from trucks to Fed Ex packages and mail deliveries to forklifts), how would you help the nation prepare for this cutting- edge technology? What concerns does this raise for you?
  2. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is taking a knee during the pregame national anthem. He's protesting the treatment of people of color by police and racial injustice more generally. His protest has sparked outrage, but it's also spreading to other athletes, teams and sports. Recent police shootings, including ones in Tulsa and Charlotte, are keeping this issue front and center. Does Kaepernick have a point, and what do you think of it?
  3. Edward Snowden's revelations about cyberspace surveillance methods of the National Security Agency has strained relations between Washington, D.C., and Silicon Valley. Tech companies like Facebook and Google worry that if the federal government insists they turn over information, their customers, especially in places like Europe, will lose faith in them. In response, they're using more encryption to protect privacy. How would you approach this balance between security and privacy? And do you think Snowden is a traitor, a hero, or a little of both?
  4. California voters will soon decide on a ballot measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, as Washington and Colorado have. As president what will be your approach to pot, in terms of raiding marijuana growing operations? Do you support the medical use of marijuana? If you think the recreational use of marijuana should remain illegal, how high a priority (pardon the pun) should possession, or even cultivation of small amounts, be for law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice?
  5. California has more undocumented immigrants than any state in the nation. Between 2 and 3 million are here illegally. Many work in agriculture and the service industries, like hotels and restaurants. The legality of their presence aside, there are mixed views about their impact on the economy on California. Do you see them as a net negative or a net positive to the economy? And where do you see them fitting in to what America is or is becoming?

I don't know that any of these questions will be asked. But one of the three main topic areas is "America's Direction," which could be about almost anything. Given the outsized impact California has on our nation's economy, culture and politics, it seems only fair we show up somewhere during the 90-minute debate.