The 2012 presidential election has been about many things. But there are many other things it hasn’t been about. With a nod to one of my favorite political bloggers, Jonathan Bernstein, and his “Dogs, Not Barking” feature, here are 10 things that I’m surprised haven’t become issues this year:
1. Obama and same-sex marriage. Before President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, it was mostly speculated that he’d held off on doing so because he feared the political repercussions. As recently as 2004, after all, President Bush came out for the Federal Marriage Amendment so he could use marriage as a wedge issue. However, same-sex marriage has been very much off the radar of presidential politics in the general election, and it doesn’t appear taking this position has cost the President many votes.
2. Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. Leading up to the election campaign, numerous news stories speculated that Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith would affect the election in one of two ways: Either conservative evangelical voters would decide they couldn’t trust him, or liberals wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to regularly crack polygamy and magic underwear jokes. It doesn’t appear that either phenomenon has come to pass in any significant way.
3. The Obama “scandals.” The Obama Administration has been relatively free of major scandals. Unlike either the Clinton or Bush presidency, no cabinet member or top White House adviser has resigned in disgrace in relation to any particular scandal. Darrell Issa, the House committee chairman leading most investigations of the administration, referred to Obama in 2010 as “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times,” which is really only a true statement if you define “corrupt” to mean “supportive of policies with which I don’t agree.”
This hasn’t stopped the President’s opponents from making supposed high crimes out of things like Solyndra and the Joe Sestak job offer (seriously, remember the Joe Sestak job offer?); Jon Stewart had some great fun over the summer pointing out how Republicans have referred to at least five different things as either “Obama’s Watergate” or “worse than Watergate.”
But the Romney campaign has put very little effort into making hay of these issues, and hasn’t especially succeeded when they have tried. That includes the Fast and Furious debacle which, while a huge story in right-wing media, has barely been mentioned by Romney/Ryan.
The one place where Obama was really vulnerable is the Benghazi assault, but the President somehow got the better of that exchange in the second debate, when Romney stumbled into letting the issue suddenly become not “did the White House screw up Benghazi,” but rather “did Obama call it an ‘act of terror’ the day after”?
4. Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. Occupy seems to have had no presence whatsoever in the race; they barely even protested the conventions. And the Tea Party, while still around, seems to have a great deal less influence than they did in 2010. When was the last time you heard anything about whether Romney had won over the Tea Party crowd, or Obama Occupy?
5. TARP and “too big to fail.” The TARP program may have been the primary piece of legislation driving right-wing anger in the early Obama years, but it was actually signed by President Bush, and continued by Obama. What’s Mitt Romney’s position on TARP? What would either candidate do if faced with a situation akin to September 2008 and a bankrupt Lehman Brothers? We haven’t heard a thing about either.
6. The return of Reverend Wright. I kept hearing in the spring and summer that we’d be seeing an onslaught of SuperPAC ads featuring Jeremiah Wright’s sermons, sponsored by GOP operatives convinced that the only reason John McCain lost is because voters didn’t hear enough about “God Damn America.” If they’re going to surface, they haven’t yet.
7. Speaking of Super PACs. What ever happened to that huge financial advantage the Romney-aligned ones were supposed to have? Now I don’t live in Ohio, but if the ad advantage has been overwhelming, I haven’t seen it.
8. North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The candidates have been talking a lot about Iran and its quest for nuclear weapons, but what about that other member of the Axis of Evil? Reports have differed over the years as to whether the North Koreans have managed to acquire nuclear capability, but whether they have or they’re still trying, shouldn’t we be talking about it? Aside from a one-line mention by Romney in the third debate, the issue has been absent.
9. “Real Americans.” There was a pretty ugly current of rhetoric on the Republican side in the 2008 race, especially after Sarah Palin got in, that certain people—rural, white, conservative, small-town—were “real Americans,” in a way that others weren’t, while the Republican-voting parts of Pennsylvania were “the real Pennsylvania.” Thankfully, we’ve heard much less of that sort of thing this time.
10. Paul Ryan, Rage Against the Machine fan. And you thought Chris Christie being the world’s biggest Springsteen fan was politically incongruous. How in the world is the author of the Path to Prosperity a devotee of the world’s most left-wing band, whose favored political causes include freeing Mumia Abu-Jamal? Has Ryan not ever listened to any of the lyrics? Next time he’s interviewed I’d love to hear that question asked.