What a Strange Year

What a Strange Year

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

It is hard to believe that there are mid-term elections in three weeks and the President is not hitting the campaign trail. Except for flying around the country raising money for Democrats and the Democratic Party—by no means a trivial or inconsequential activity— President Obama is not out stumping for anyone running for election in November. He has become so personally unpopular that in many key combative races it is the President who is the key debating issue or whipping boy in the campaign. Even Democrats are not interested in the President visiting their district or state.  Many candidates would rather defend themselves or their record. Even the President’s supporters are inclined to want to run their races on their own without his presence.  The consensus among Democrats is that there is no upside in his visibly enjoining their campaign.

As Republicans hammer away at Obamacare and at Obama’s failures as President, Democrats are focusing on a major get-out-the vote campaign using the President’s old message to voters urging them to come out this November just as they previously turned voted for him 2008 and 2012.  Their targeted populations continue to be African Americans and Latinos in key competitive Senate races; as well as women, particular younger women all over the counrty.  What is fascinating when considered in historical terms is how irrelevant issues are in this year’s campaigns.      

What is equally strange is how overwhelmed the White House is with critical international issues that ought to be at the core of all election races anywhere in the country. Everything from ISIS to Ebola, to Iran, to Ukraine, to Hong Kong ought to be part of the public discourse; yet the candidates and their campaigns recognize that the voters are largely oblivious to these same concerns. These issues only emerge in the context of considering whether Obama is considering a military land force commitment to fight ISIS; how much fighting the Islamic State will cost; and whether any of these issues will impact on the economic recovery.

In the field and around the country the substance of these issues is barely being debated. Speaker Tip O’Neill may well have been right that at the end of the day for the American voter “all politics is local”, but one might have thought there would be a limit. 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