The early indications are that the contest to fill the next term in the White House will be less driven by a handful of well-known and well-defined issues than some recent campaigns have been. If that turns out to be the case then someone possessing an historical perspective will be able to say that there have been other times when issues were less important. The party labels, the reputations of the candidates, the fact of certain demographics are three among many factors that help define and inspire the choices of voters. None of these three factors are simply related to political issues.
The Planned Parenthood videos, the graphic videos of beheadings and burning people alive join with video of shooting incidents and bombings across our nation, these are three examples of a new video consciousness shared by voters which doesn’t allow the electorate to be completely satisfied with a debate or a traditional television spot presenting the views of candidates
I think that the dispassionate consideration of political issues is a kind of luxury. Issues still matter whether or not they can be considered as important decisions about which decent and reasonable people can disagree. But if that kind of discussion can be considered a luxury it remains a very nice kind of luxury. I’m pretty sure that my life has been framed largely in terms of responding to the concerns and events around me that inspired me to both emotional and intellectual reactions. I think that there are swing voters in this election just as in other elections. However, I also think that we are in a period when fewer people who might have voted for someone else or who might have stayed home will turn out for the eventual winner because that person did a better job of putting together the planks of a political platform or defining a crucial issue.
In terms of the threats that face our country all of us have somewhat different reactions to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, ISIS, Al Qaeda, the saber rattling regime in North Korea (or the DPRK), the arms programs in Iran, the limited options faced by the most hostile forces within the Russian regime. We cannot expect anyone, including millions of voters who are in the military, to trust the future of our security and readiness to the ability of a candidate to define issues. Clearly I value rhetoric and argument. In addition good debates and television spots are easy to write about but this election has people worrying about who can act as an effective Commander in Chief, who can keep the country’s mounting social tensions from tearing the country apart. People are looking for those who will support their part of our society in the the class or racial struggles they see going on even though few will declare that as openly as I just have done in reporting about the choices of others.
When the General election comes around and long before issues and platforms will matter but not nearly as much as people think. Those who fear government being overly aggressive in policing them are likely to trust Rand Paul and give him the benefit of many doubts no matter how poorly he connects with them on a few issues. Those who want a nationalist, capitalist, politically moderate America which is deeply committed to its own interests will trust Donald Trump no matter how badly he connects with them on various issues. Those who want a more equitable and effective program of social justice from someone not afraid to be associated with Socialism will trust Bernie Sanders no matter how poorly he connects with those voters on some issues.
Thomas Sowell wrote an interesting editorial recently that relates to the perspective of my series of blog posts in interesting ways. He decries the fact that the debates are flawed and that those doing best in the polls after one debate on the Republican side had no governing experience. He makes a plea to Republicans to look to the qualified governors. Sowell makes some good points. But I think people are justifiable concerned that the issues that really matter in this campaign go beyond things that can be well addressed in traditional debates and platforms. America is not in a panic but there are hard edged and well defined anxieties across the electorate. People are attracted to a President they believe can save us from a general trend many do not find acceptable. Unfortunately those who want change disagree deeply and will struggle mightily among themselves. We face a political crisis and while we may not understand all we should about it we should start recognizing that fact, the fact of a kind of truly political crisis…