We have now endured the first presidential and only vice-presidential debates of the 2012 election season. The Republicans and Democrats have endeavored to highlight their many differences, but I think it is more telling to look at all of the topics that, thus far, neither party has dared to discuss and neither moderator has dared to bring up.
To be fair, it’s impossible to discuss everything in the debates, and there are no doubt activists of various stripes who are bemoaning the absence of dozens of topics, including climate change, immigration, and the Federal Reserve. Well, here is a list of some of the things that I wish the Republican or Democratic candidates would talk about:
1. Drone Strikes. We’ve heard talk on foreign policy, but as I expected, no mention of the strategies of dropping targeted missiles on anonymous subjects in foreign lands and all the complications that come with it. I suppose Rand Paul’s influence on the leaders in the Republican party still looks to be somewhere around 0.
2. Civil Liberties. I don’t expect much substance on this topic, either, but, come on, not even a symbolic shout-out? I guess now that the Democrats have erased indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping and other concerns from their platform, neither party even can pretend to care about civil liberties anymore.
3. TSA. I know, neither party wants to cut back on the Transportation Security Administration, but come on, there should be something here for everyone, right? The Republicans could express concern about the government’s creeping expansion to other forms of transportation, and the Democrats could express concern about racial profiling. Or, you know, we could just all pretend that the humiliation and flagrant theft is keeping us safe.
4. Marijuana. Polls show that we’re reaching a tipping point on wanting to end the Prohibition of marijuana, but with Gary Johnson locked out of the debates, he’s stuck writing brilliant op-eds for foreign newspapers. If Washington or Colorado legalize it next month – and the polls thus far are favorable for both – what would your federal government do? How would that not be an incredibly relevant debate question?
5. Ethanol. How about something that has nothing to do with foreign policy or homeland security? We’ve made some progress on this boondoggle by letting some credits expire this year, but I would love to see somebody talk about ending the Bush-era mandate that’s gift-wrapping profits to connected farmers while pushing up corn prices for everyone else. The Democrats could express concern that it’s not actually environmentally-friendly, and the Republicans could express concern that it’s a dysfunctional, arbitrary government intervention into free markets. Wait, what’s that? “Iowa”? Oh, nevermind.
I would be thrilled if a debate moderator brings up any one of these topics, and even more thrilled if Obama or Romney spontaneously discusses one, but I’m not holding my breath. They likely share the same positions on these issues, so there’s no room for one to attack the other, and the moderators don’t want to waste time on agreements. But, for now, I can dream.