10 Important Issues the Debates Are Ignoring

The recent debates have covered a number of issues: the economy, Libya, Iran, abortion, unspecific tax plans, health care, and Sesame Street. But let’s not pretend that the topics the candidates have discussed are in any way exhaustive. There are plenty of issues that have — perhaps purposefully — gone ignored, and here are 10 of the more significant ones:

1. Climate Change

While there’s been a lot of discussion about energy policy — particularly jobs related to this field, dependency on foreign oil, and the cost efficiency of certain energy sources. But no one seems willing to mention the most crucial aspect: climate change. Our energy practices are contributing monumentally to global warming, and to not prioritize this as the main way to inform our energy decisions is preposterous. At this point, being a climate change ignorer is nearly as irresponsible as a climate change denier.

2. Campaign Money

It should be no secret that these two men have the privilege of participating in the debate due in large part to massive campaign donations they have amassed. This fact raises a lot of questions — unfortunately none of which will be addressed at the debates. How great would it be if they were asked who their major campaign donors are, what responsibilities they feel to these donors, their feelings on the emergence of Super PACs and whether they think that the political system could benefit from campaign finance reform.


At the end of 2011, President Obama signed the NDAA, which authorized the indefinite detention of American citizens without trial. Though courts have found this “law” unconstitutional, the Obama administration continues to appeal the decisions. What I wouldn’t give to hear a debate moderator ask why maintaining this power is so important to Obama and how Romney feels about indefinite detention.

4. The Prison Industrial Complex

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. That, as well as the alarming racial disparity amongst the prison population and lack of support provided to inmates returning to society, should be discussed. As private companies who own the prisons profit greatly off harsh sentences for non-violent offenders, and other companies make a killing off paying inmates almost non-existent wages for prison labor, it’s time our nation’s leaders address this madness.

5. The Cost of Higher Education

The candidates will indicate that they want Americans to have the chance to go to college, but they do not directly address one of the greatest obstacles: outrageous tuition costs and the resulting insurmountable student debt. If education is a key to growing our economy, what are the plans for making education affordable? How do we ease the financial burden on the already college-educated who are now unable to find jobs?

6. Internet Policy

The internet community has been so committed to taking on new internet laws — like PIPA, SOPA, and more recently CISPA — that they successfully convinced Congress to vote against SOPA despite major lobbying from private interests. With such a notable public outcry, it seems appropriate for the candidates to share their views on internet regulation.

7. The Water Crisis

Good luck getting a politician to acknowledge a problem that’s 10 years down the road, but researchers are projecting an impending drinking water shortage all over the world, including America. How will we deal with something so crucial to human survival and mitigate the problem before it becomes a full-blown crisis? It’s probably also too much to expect anyone to bring up fracking, which is contaminating the existing water supply and leaving some American citizens without safe drinking water, but a question on that would be great, too.

8. The First Amendment

American politicians are quick to criticize countries abroad for impeding democracy and the right to protest, yet when similar abuses happen at home, you can count on them to keep quiet. For the past year, Occupy Wall Street participants have been targeted, harassed, jailed and otherwise vilified for exercising their supposedly protected right to voice dissent. A pointed question about the right to assemble would be particularly apt right about now, rather than permitting the candidates to continue to remain mum.

9. The Police

On that note, what about the emerging police state that acts to suppress these protesters? Or wages violence on the people they are tasked to protect? Or carries out racist stop-and-frisk policies? Let’s ask the candidates how they feel police should be held accountable and what role the police should play in our society.

10. Drones

Perhaps drones will come up in the final foreign policy debate, but I would expect the subject to be glossed over at best. The United States’ latest policy of secretly targeting “militants” abroad with missiles that primarily winds up killing children and civilians lacks accountability and oversight. Hopefully there is at least one question on Monday night about whether drone warfare is necessary, let alone conscionable.


How do so many important topics go unmentioned? And worse still, if the candidates don’t find these issues worth debating, how can we expect improvements from them during their terms in office?

With the current debate structure, presidential candidates need not worry about having to address any of these weighty issues they’d rather not have to discuss. Ever since the Republican and Democrat parties took the reigns of the national debate from the non-partisan organization the League of Women Voters in the ‘80s, they call the shots in how their candidates are presented and which subjects on which they will state their positions.

That’s also a primary reason why third party candidates — like the Green Party’s Jill Stein who was actually arrested this past week for daring to show up to the debates — are so easily shut out of the conversation. Including some legitimately differing viewpoints in the debate would make avoiding some of these topics difficult, and the two major parties are not interested in legitimately open discourse.

As we watch the debates, it’s important to not only consider the topics that are being discussed, but also the issues that are being left out… and then ask ourselves why.


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Photo Credit: Screencap from the New York Times


Dorothy N.
Dorothy N5 years ago


... According to three different anonymous sources, one who works for the Romney campaign, Garrity made up fake police badges -- bright silver plates with the seal of Massachusetts on them -- and gave them to several other staffers, who used them to order reporters and other people out of events, get past security guards, and avoid paying highway tolls. In fact, Garrity has been handing out badges since Romney was governor of Massachusetts. ...

... Using fake badges is, of course, illegal. ...

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N5 years ago

Frankly, with only 3 debates in total, and time limits, how many issues can be covered?

President Obama's record IS established: http://www.barackobama.com/news/entry/what-obamas-accomplished?utm_medium=email&utm_source=obama&utm_content=View the list here&utm_campaign=em12_20121031_ft_act&source=em12_20121031_ft_act

What Obama's accomplished

By Lauren on October 31, 2012

So is Mitt's record


Mitt Romney's Skeleton Closet: Scandals, Quotes, and Character

-- Dog on the Roof
-- Medicare Fraud
-- Predatory Capitalism
-- Out of Touch
-- Phony "Varmint Hunter"
-- Hired Illegal Immigrants
-- Flat-Out Liar
-- Draft Dodger
-- Impersonating Police Officers


(Especially note this one - I'd heard about Mitt doing this, but not about his staff, as well, impersonating police?)

Top Aide Illegally Impersonating Police Officers

The most bizarre scandal of Romney's 2008 campaign involved Jay Garrity, Mitt's director of operations (basically, his right-hand man.) Garrity resigned from the campaign after several allegations that he claimed to be a policeman, and used that authority to intimidate people. ...

... According to three different anonymous sources, one who works for the Romney campaign, Garrity made up fake police badges -- bright silver plates with the seal of Massachusetts on them -- and gave them to several other staffers, who used them to order reporters and other peo

Michael Wecke
Michael Wecke5 years ago

That's the question I wanted to ask - why are these issues left out? Perhaps because both candidates agree with and thus ignore these issues?

Eric D.
Eric Duggan5 years ago

Why should they even bring up any of these issues? The Status Quo works for the politicans, so why change a good thing? These elites are very different than you and me. Unfortunately you can't get into the system to change it unless you are one of the elite. Until the electorate wakes up, no significantly different behavior can be expected from our politicians. Sad, but true.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Important information.

Katie K.
Katie K5 years ago

It just blows me away to hear the amount of monies both politicians have spent on this campaign. Air Force One has booked a staggering amount of flight hours not counting the others accompany the President. I realize this is important but goodness won't those monies have been better spent help others.

Eric Lees
Eric Lees5 years ago

@Lee E. I agree with almost everything you wrote. It's shocking how people can still support Obama after he signed the Patriot Act & then went well beyond Bush/Cheney by signing the NDAA with indefinite detention and assassinations.

On the taxes yes the marginal rates were a lot more back then but there were way more loop holes and deductions so no one paid 91% in taxes. How many rich people would stick around if the tax rate was 90% with today's tax code? Just look at France with their new 75% tax rate, the rich are fleeing.

The "Fair Tax" would be much better, tax consumption rather than income. Eliminate virtually all the IRS and the complex tax code that costs America an estimated 6 billion hours & $430 billion just to comply with. With a national sales tax even the drug dealers would have to pay when they buy something. Regardless our current level of spending is unsustainable.

J.L. A.
JL A5 years ago

so sad that we no longer have thorough policy vetting of our candidates where they were required to defend their party's platforms set during conventions and were not free to take a different position if the issue were in the platform

Arild Warud

At least 10...........

Adam C.
Adam C5 years ago