Issues Missing in Presidential Campaign

20160711_election_issues_2New Orleans    Not long ago there was an op-ed piece that ran in the papers about the fact that poverty and what to really do about the equity gap was missing as an issue in the campaign. More recently, others have noted that climate change has also been raised, but not engaged as a campaign issue. When you think about it, we’ve definitely seen issues around race and gender as centerpieces of the campaign, but when it really comes down to hard-and-firm debates about policy choices and decisions that we might face once we live through this campaign, there’s not much there, there.

We can infer that Trump would reboot our foreign policy with a Russian warmup of some kind. We know that Clinton traveled to a host of countries while Secretary of State, but I’m not sure if we know exactly what she would do on foreign policy as President, other than more of the same. If we grab at straws there are contradictory readings of some of the WikiLeaks email dumps that indicate that Clinton might – or might not – be tougher on Wall Street. Immigrants may have to learn to crawl the wall with Trump, but we’re guessing that Hillary would continue to push forward with Obama-lite programs in this area. We know Trump would appoint highly conservative nominees to the Supreme Court, and, we can guess that Clinton would not, but she has not committed to pushing forward on Obama’s stalled nomination or been clear where she might look in this regard.

It’s kind of amazing how little we know about what either candidate would really do as President, given the nature of this campaign. It has been so bitter and so divisive that it has drowned out any but the most strident messages of the candidates.

We can gather that something might happen on daycare, but Trump’s initiative here was tactical, rather than profound, so it’s not like we could take it to the bank. And, speaking of the bank, for all of the controversy about Trump’s non-payment of taxes, if a gun were pressed up against my head, I would still be hard-pressed to repeat exactly what Clinton has said that she would commit to doing to change the tax rate and how it favors corporations and the rich, even if we can be confident from Trump’s remarks that he thinks it’s fine and dandy, and even smart to not pay taxes. I’d say about the same on trade and jobs, which have surprisingly been clearer issues for Trump, than Clinton.

Maybe this is just real-politick. Perhaps we are seeing all of these sideshows from both candidates because neither are sure that they can get anything through Congress? The increasingly confident Clinton is putting more money into Arizona, Indiana, and Missouri to try and influence Senate races to switch control, but meanwhile polls are also indicating that people are tuning out and tired of the back-and-forth, particularly African-Americans and younger voters which could lead to lower turnout.

One thing that was clear in the Sanders campaign and his constant one-note repetition: voters knew where he stood. The only thing clear about this campaign as we come down to the wire is that voters know who they don’t like – not what they can expect to see over the next four years.

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