With only a few hours left to campaign, the biggest decision facing our generation in four years is almost upon us. Through three presidential debates, months of campaigning, countless creepy fundraising emails, and an inordinate amount of advertisements, many people have already made up their minds about which they are going to vote for on Election Day.
By now, we know what President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney think about Iran, the economy, global terrorism, and the navy. But there are still a number of issues that haven’t been readily discussed by the two campaigns. Below, you will find a list of the top ten that everyone cares about that the candidates have been silent on this election season.
1. The War on Drugs (America):
With the Iraq War at a close and our troops scheduled to make their departure from Afghanistan in 2014, there is another war happening right here on our own shores. The enemy, though much less clear, is just as costly and afflicts just as much damage. That war is America’s domestic assault on drugs.
Currently, the United States has the dubious distinction of being the world’s leader in the percentage of its citizens that are incarcerated. And with a large proportion locked up for non-violent drug offenses (nearly 50% at the federal level) costing the country over $63 billion a year, this is a huge strain on federal, state, and local budgets at a time when budget cuts to education and social services seem to the annual norm.
(And since we’re talking about domestic drug policy, can we get a final resolution to the discriminatory differences in the sentencing structure that exists between crack and powder cocaine? Thanks, future president.)
2. The War on Drugs (Global):
Combating drugs with a war seems to be a recurring theme when it comes to U.S. policy, but the international drug war that is currently playing itself out on our southern border and in Central America is something of serious concern here in the United States. And not only do we have to pay particular attention to what is happening in Mexico and now Honduras, but the fight has extended to Africa, where the U.S. has begun committing resources to fight this ever-dangerous international war. The future of this war is in the next president’s hands.
3. Drone Attacks:
Drones, unfortunately, have become President Obama’s weapon of choice when it comes to the counterterrorism efforts of the United States in the Middle East. In Pakistan alone, there have been 284 drone strikes. The use of these attacks has drawn comparisons between Obama and former president George Bush concerning our country’s foreign policy. And when we consider how decisions are made to use these drone strikes – that many times harm innocent civilians and kill American citizens abroad – the question remains: how much power should we allow one person to have when contemplating these critical and often deadly decisions?
4. European Debt Crisis:
Europe, our once-thriving continental counterpart, is currently suffering through one of the worst economic meltdowns in global history. With an issue so significant that impacts ordinary Americans and businesses alike, the fact that this topic has been noticeably nonexistent in our political discourse is a shame. (International economic matters, besides those currency-manipulating Chinese, have understandably taken a backseat to our domestic affairs.) The crisis in Europe has also exposed the interconnectedness and stability (or lack thereof) of our global economy, something that will surely have to be dealt with during the next presidential administration.
Right behind illegal immigration, foreign policy, and our growing national debt, education is probably the one topic that has the most implications on the future of our nation. Outside of a completely unrelated quip from Mitt Romney about teachers’ unions at the foreign policy debate, education has not been at the forefront of policy discussions. What public education in this country – from pre-kindergarten to college – will look like under a second Obama or first Romney term is fundamentally different. The Romney camp believes in choice and competition (not terrible ideas) when dealing with our education crisis, while the Obama administration implores more investments in Pell grants and early childhood education (also good ideas). But we haven’t heard the candidates explicitly spell out how their education agendas are different and what that means once Obama or Romney takes that Oath of Office.
6. Extreme Political Polarization:
Now, this is not a particular policy issue that either candidate should be addressing but the extreme polarization in our political process is something that needs to be explored. There is no reason that we are able, with pinpoint accuracy, to predict who exactly will vote for which candidates. African-American? Probably voting for Obama. Are you a working-class white male? Chances are, according to polls, that you’re voting Romney. And let’s not forget whom women (Obama), Hispanics (Obama), and Tennesseans (Romney) are likely to vote for. Demographics should not determine who the next president will be, but unfortunately, this is what our political process has turned in to.
7. Third Party Candidates:
And speaking of the bifurcation that is U.S. politics, would the introduction of a major third party candidate do us some good? A lot of people are unhappy with our current two party system and are dissatisfied with both President Obama and former Governor Romney. Could this be Gary Johnson’s year? Very unlikely, but this does beg the question of the fairness of our current political structure.
8. Climate Change:
Al Gore, if he were president today, would probably try to figure out how to tie global warming and climate change to every single issue. Our debt crisis? Probably a corollary of climate change. Terrorism? Must be because the ice caps are melting. And super storm Sandy? Wait, Sandy might actually have been caused by global warming. Unfortunately – and quite tragically – the issue of climate change (and subsequently the role of the federal government in its response to natural disasters) has brought attention to an issue that was left out of the presidential debates this year. Global warming, whether we believe the facts or not, is real and it is something that will have severe consequences on the next generation if we do not actively get in front of this problem now.
9. Gay Rights:
Earlier this year, President Obama courageously endorsed the legalization of same-sex marriage. This was big, as it represented a further move to the left in his public support of gay rights. (Remember, he also ended the controversial Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy that banned those that are openly gay from serving in the military.) With an issue as divisive as gay rights, there hasn’t been a concerted effort by either campaign to explicitly talk through this issue. But in 50 years, will we look back at this time and regret our complacent attitude towards the categorical discrimination of an entire group of people, or will we be happy that restrictions on gay rights prevailed and the sanctity of marriage – as defined by the Bible – was kept in place? The future of this issue will rest a lot with whom we elect to the Oval Office.
10. Future of Race-Based Policies:
This may or may not be an issue of importance only to me, but with the election of America’s first black president, our country’s relationship with race has once again been highlighted. Some have argued that this era is one of post-racial consciousness. Others see the promise for race relations in this country as a result of Barack Obama tearing down the generations-old barrier of racial discrimination. But with Obama having to navigate the precarious position of being both the first black president and the nation’s commander-in-chief, he has been criticized for not doing enough for African Americans and other minorities. With affirmative action currently under heavy scrutiny, the future of specific race-based policies is probably on the decline – with policies based more on class/economics taking its place – and that is something we will have to grapple with moving forward.