What Neither Party Has Talked About At The Debates So Far

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.

3 thoughts on “What Neither Party Has Talked About At The Debates So Far”

  1. Another great post. I was struck by this statement:

    I suppose Rand Paul’s influence on the leaders in the Republican party still looks to be somewhere around 0.

    I think Paul should consider becoming an independent. He can caucus with the Republicans, but if he really is a libertarian, then he should make it official. More than anything, though, he can reach across the aisle and get a lot done. It may not be the big change that he (and other Libertarians) want, but it will be progress. There are lots and lots of regulations that liberals would like to get rid of. But they don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. So just throw out the bath water.

    Modern Democrats (Clinton and Obama) consider themselves pragmatists. They govern (or try and govern) like Ike. They love to borrow the arguments from the right and adopt it, if they think it will solve the problem (Obamacare = Romneycare = Nixoncare). More than anything, they are aware that excesses in government kill support for more government. If a news station shows a few welfare queens, then a new poverty program that actually works and saves money (by reducing crime) is gutted. Show a few lazy bureaucrats and folks want across the board cuts. Those cuts are more likely to hurt a hard working bureaucrat than an old lazy one. Remember Al Gore’s reinventing government initiative? I’m sure he never felt like it was the most important thing that government could do, but he knew that it would pay huge political dividends if it was truly successful. So, let guys who really hate regulation come up with sensible alternatives. Get people from both sides to work on this thing from an honest standpoint, and I’m sure you will make solid progress. Unlike a lot of bipartisan initiatives, this is one that both sides would support.

    Paul, or other like minded Republicans could also reach across the aisle to find common ground amongst left leaning Democrats on numerous other issues. Right now those Democrats are silent because they don’t want to lose the election. A lot of Greens right now are telling people to just shut up. You may think (and have a very good reason to think) that the most important issue of our time is climate change, but leaders are telling people to keep quiet for another couple months. The same is true for gay rights. If not for Biden tipping his hand, these folks would have grudgingly (instead of enthusiastically) supported Obama.

    On civil rights and national security issues, both candidates are just trying to appear tough. There is no way either one will do a thing about these issues until after the election. Every liberal in congress (and the few that are in the Senate) know to keep their mouth shut on this issue as well. If Obama is reelected, it would not surprise me in the least if numerous members of his own party start questioning him on the very issues you mentioned. If folks feel like they can have an honest discussion on these issues, and not just use it as an excuse to make political points, then I think we could see big changes in these areas. OK, now I’m dreaming.

    Perhaps the biggest silent issue is the one you mentioned: Cannabis. I live in Washington State, and you are absolutely right in saying that it is likely to be legal in this state. The Seattle Times, a generally right of center magazine, has been running excellent editorials in support of the initiative. Most of the opposition in Seattle has come from folks on the left (especially medical marijuana shops) opposed to specific previsions in the proposed law (such as the DUI limit). This is probably a minority opinion, of course, but it is possible that this initiative will fail because people think it is too restrictive. Despite the wide spread support of this initiative, neither gubernatorial candidate has pledged to support it. The tide is turning, though, much as it has with gay rights. Not too long ago, it was hard to find anyone who supported gay marriage. Then some of the local organizations (district Democrats) supported it, along with the occasional state representative or city council member. Then a Democrat from a safe district supported it. Next thing you know, more and more folks supported it and you have what exists now. This is not to suggest that these issues will all come from the left; it is the safety of the candidate that has more to do with it. If a candidate feels open to really consider an issue, then he or she will really think it through and figure out the best solution. More importantly, the representative will feel free to really say what they mean and support it openly. It is hard for me to imagine that Barack Obama, given his history, really supports the current state of Marijuana laws in this country. But like a lot of candidates he keeps his mouth shut, while his official position … evolves.

    1. Thanks again for your thoughts. Regarding Paul, I think (to use the paradigm from my last post) he still sees more of an opportunity as a “Puritan” rather than a “Separatist.” I just read a Politico article (link) about Paul’s attempts to influence several races this cycle; I don’t think he would be able to do that as an independent, at least not yet. Regarding civil liberties, I have little hope that either party would change tune after the election (the Democrats did so little to resist Obama the first time around, and have now removed items from their platform that they once criticized Bush for). Regarding marijuana, I could see Obama “evolving” on the issue in his second term as more states try to legalize it (especially since he smoked it), and I wouldn’t be surprised if “etch-a-sketch” Romney did, either. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Comments are closed.