Out of Sight –Out of Mind
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The same way that Americans are paying no attention to the economic conditions which are about to hit them at the end of the year, so too are they totally uninterested and oblivious to the events in Syria, Iran, or for that matter any international issue. With the debt ceiling extension, budget reconciliation, extension of the Bush tax cuts, and the budget agreement/sequestration all needing to be resolved (or kicked again irresponsibly down the road because no one wants to pay taxes) this fall, Americans are wallowing about in the last days of summer, the beginning of the school year, and the quadrennial circuses taking place in Tampa and Charlotte. Sure the hurricane, jobs, and the housing crisis are important, but Americans are drawing inward more and more, except where U.S. soldiers being attacked in Afghanistan and Pakistan are concerned. In fact in that case, most Americans want out.
This reality ought to be understood by those Americans for whom foreign policy issues are important. Specifically, this is what is crystal clear in looking what is behind and underneath much of the Tea Party’s rallying cry and the Ron Paul “liberty movement” excitement; especially in the minds of many young people. Scores of people may be dying in Syria and Sudan, and Iran may about to be going nuclear; but Americans want to cut foreign aid, ignore the foreign debt crisis, have decreasing tolerance for Muslims, are growing more anti-immigrant, and are beginning to manifest anti-Black attitudes. In addition, they are bored with all the attention that Israel (and Jews) are getting.
There are few signs that the presidential campaign itself will actually address very much of substance. Largely the campaign will be slogans, gimmicks, and sound bites, but the problems the U.S. truly faces will not be addressed. Beyond what they have said until now, do not expect Obama or Romney to give any more details as to how they will solve any of these issues. There will be discussions about abortions, guns, crime, Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid to be sure, but real solutions cannot be explained in 30 second spots, only quick graphics, voice over, and sound bites. It will be all polarizing to get the less than 10% undecided voters.
So, as the Republicans prepare to launch the Romney-Ryan ticket, baring an international incident or a major domestic crisis, the concerns, issues, and their proposed remedies will not change or expand between now and Election Day. Unfortunately, the country could use a serious debate but it will not have it. Sadly as well, the climate in Washington is so angry that it is hard to believe that we will see a serious debate even after November 6.