Remember when President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney stood on stage at the town hall debate yelling at each other, but neglected to do much yelling about an array of issues that matter to people? Well, this was not entirely their fault, as it turns out. As we head into Monday night’s debate -- all foreign policy, all the time -- let’s take a few minutes to remember the topics that were neither brought up by the debate moderators nor addressed by the candidates.
HOUSING: For all the talk about how the economy either downright sucks, kinda sucks or is totally on the mend, there was little mention of the actual victims of the recession -- y’know, that whole foreclosure crisis that is the worst since the Great Depression. The housing market is indeed on the rise again, but Obama hasn’t quite been in a place where he can own its recovery -- and his Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), has been something of a bust. Surprised that Romney didn’t raise the issue or at least tout his own plan to boost the sector? Don’t be. His own plan is “not very new, and it’s not much of a plan.” Plus, he’s saddled with this statement: “Don't try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom.” Chances are, both candidates are only too happy the topic never came up.
LGBT RIGHTS: Earlier this year, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to endorse same-sex marriage. Why wasn't he asked why he didn't come out for it sooner? He also presided over the abolition of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. How was there no mention of this? And after an inquiry from an openly gay soldier made such a stir during the primary debates, how did the debate commission fail to produce a single undecided voter to confront Romney on his historically shifting stance on LGBT issues? Why were LGBT issues shut out of the debates entirely? “If I had to pick one reason for that,” Alex Pareene writes, “it’s that nearly everyone who cares about ‘minority issues’ like LGBT rights ... is a committed partisan, and our political press and debate organizers continue to fetishize ‘uncommitted’ and ‘undecided’ voters.”
SUPREME COURT: It’s a little sad that a reader from Baltimore has to write a letter to the Baltimore Sun outlining why the Supreme Court is at stake in this election. As we saw with the ruling on the president’s health care law, those Supreme Court justices play a huge role in deciding which policies remain on the books and which don’t. We suppose the issue was dodged largely because it would open up that can of worms in which the moderator would have to explain to Romney that he can’t be conservative, moderate and liberal at the same time, which would effectively lead to the end of his presidential bid. But in recent years, both parties have learned to answer this question with a flash card of neutral-sounding talking points, thus precluding the possibility that either candidate will reveal too much about how he interprets the Constitution.
STUDENT LOANS: For all the college tours and courting of the youth vote, both candidates were virtually silent on college affordability. There was that bizarre segue into education when answering a question about gun control, but for the most part, neither Obama nor Romney really got into much discussion around educating the future of America. A little odd, too, that Obama didn’t resurrect the Paul Ryan budget -- with its significant cuts to education -- or Romney’s whole spiel to just “borrow money from your parents,” ’cause in Willard’s world every parent makes serious bank. But not even Romney’s deep pockets match up against the mounting crisis of student loan debt, which “is growing at a rate of $2,853.88 per second” and on pace to “surpass $1 trillion in 2012” -- setting the stage for what could be the next big financial calamity.
DRUG POLICY: In a way, debate topics are determined as much by the candidates who aren’t invited to the debate as by those who do appear on the podium. In this case, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has been one of the key voices criticizing our myopic drug policies and our costly, failed drug war. It's largely led to Johnson's becoming known as the guy who will legalize weed, but that gives short shrift to his point of view. And this isn’t just about making pot legal, you guys. There’s a drug war that hasn’t been touched upon -- though it could come up Monday night. Here’s why it should.
Chances are, you have your own agenda of items that you feel should have qualified for attention at the debates. If so, please share them in the comments. And we wish you better luck next time, in four years.