US Elections: Three Meaningless Political Debates – OpEd


Holy debates, Obatman! For all the personal dislike for each other said to exist between these two ordained priests of American capitalism – often misidentified as Free Market Enterprise – Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have shown to be equally adept at dealing with trivia and secondary issues… and equally inept at dealing with every substantive issue.

Their polemical theatrics have not tackled head on any of the significant issues affecting the nation’s direction – assuming there is a charted course we’re navigating – by way of any specific domestic or foreign policy. And that unequivocally affects the nation’s viability in the short, medium and long term.

United States
United States

Perhaps substantive matters are not meant to be debated, lest debaters be found out in either deceit or ignorance. Montaigne said it best when he wrote, “Men only debate and question of the branch, not of the tree.” [Essays II.xii.] And all three debates have been about the branches and foliage… and not once about the tree (our nation) and our need to diagnose its health, and if found to be diseased, propose a plan of cure. But the duopoly has chosen for us two arborists who either lack mastery in the field or, the most likely reason, lie to the public for motives which are personally or politically expeditious. That’s the price Americans must pay for their corrupt two-party system.

It would have been helpful if there had been meaningful questions asked of the candidates to the presidency by either the moderator or a select panel of experts; or if the candidates had exhibited vision and/or courage to bring to the debate – something totally absent in all three debates; questions not just for the candidates to answer, but for the voter to better understand what is at stake in this election. Why do we maintain this political taboo that forces us not to look at ourselves, our institutions or our imperial, undemocratic form of government? Is it our Americentricity?

Only the idealistic among us would expect, no, require, that transcendental issues be addressed by the candidates. Issues such as: the unconstitutional power-ascendancy of the Supreme Court; the obscene influence that money has on elections; the question of universal healthcare or the sacrosanctity of social security; or why we insist on being an empire with a quarter of the world under our protection. However, there were other critical issues of interest to most voters that weren’t touched, or where direct answers were not demanded from the two candidates, such as:
If our level of consumption continues to exceed, and by a considerable amount, our level of production, what remedial options do we have other than to keep on borrowing ad infinitum? But that’s a topic no politician would dare touch.

Yet, isn’t Greece really a 1/30th scale economic model of the US? Then, why do we point the finger at Greece as a mismanaged economy, or at the EU as a welfare model, when we should be pointing that finger at the US with a de facto bankrupt economy?

Why do the candidates talk about bringing back those good paying manufacturing jobs when we know for a fact that most manufacturing jobs now being created pay only half as much… and that the jobs which were exported during the past three decades are gone… gone… forever gone? That globalization is a fact of capitalism totally embraced by business and government during the last two decades, Democrats and Republicans holding hands on this issue? Is either candidate in favor of reverting to the economic model of protectionism (tariffs, etc.)?

Can either candidate answer why government fails to address economic problems in a timely manner, waiting until it’s irremediable late? Such as accounting for short-funding of state pensions (one trillion), or the eventual cataclysm in student loans (one trillion), or the eventual rescuing of municipalities and conniving banks (again), or the unfunded costs of taking care of our own victim-heroes of the new expeditionary wars.

How can a fully matured economy such as the United States afford a national debt which is likely to exceed during the next presidential cycle the nation’s GDP by more than 25 percent? I fear that Standard and Poor’s recent credit downgrade of the US is far too small and accommodating, tainted perhaps by misguided patriotism.

And in foreign policy, for all the talk by both candidates in addressing the problems besetting the Middle East, they both failed miserably in identifying the key to success for the US: helping, insisting, forcing a solution in the creation of a 2-state Palestine. The United States will not attain credibility with the people in the Middle East unless and until Palestinians are given a fair deal. Yet Palestinian claims did not enter the debate, only Israel’s concern with Iran attaining nuclear capability.

Here we are two weeks before Election Day and we are told that the election is too close to call, that either Obama or Romney could win the election. Well, perhaps the winner cannot be predicted, but we know for sure who the loser will be: Americans… all Americans except for those who are part of the Thug-elite.

Ben Tanosborn

Ben Tanosborn is a syndicated columnist. Over a decade ago he started writing a weekly sociopolitical column, 'Behind the Mirror,' hoping to bring new perspectives that would allow us to see ourselves with borrowed eyes. He can be reached at [email protected]

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