American politics is truly overwhelming. For most Americans, except when someone has a soldier in harm’s way, international affairs seem distant and unrelated to one’s life. Admittedly the average voter understands that economic policy throughout the world has impacts our economy, but except when it comes sometimes to the price of gas, they do not think much about it. (Similarly, it is likely that there will be little attention given to foreign policy at the conventions, except by the President as he seeks to defend his record.)
We are a nation which tends to be consumed by our own politics, at the regional, state, or local level. In medium to large cities in the U.S. foreign news tends to be buried inside the news sections, regardless of its global importance, unless it directly impacts the average American. When one examines the public’s reading habits, entertainment interests, and internet focus, it is reality shows, games, entertainment, and sports which draw the most attention. (Even CNN, the pioneer in the 24 hour news cycle, is now reportedly considering make a major change in its programming away from hard news.)
What began on Saturday with the announcement of Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan, and today’s announcement of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as the keynote speaker, will be followed by daily convention related events to capture the 24/7 news cycle from now through the end of the Tampa convention ending on Thursday August 30. This in turn will be rivaled by and followed by an equally narrow focus of Democratic convention related news beginning especially on Friday, August 31 as the Democrats gather in Charlotte, North Carolina for their own convention beginning on Monday, Labor Day, September 3. (There goes the Republican post-convention news bounce.)
This inward looking view is especially striking as one considers the amount of potential international mischief into which the U.S. could become embroiled during the next twelve weeks, throughout the entire campaign season. Syria remains in a state of turmoil which could explode at any minute. Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to appear to be out of control with explosions and incidents occurring on a daily basis. The President for certain does not want a major incident there during the campaign season.
Israel wants to keep the Iranian nuclear threat in the international public view—especially before the two major presidential candidates– regardless of the accuracy or acceptance of their most current analysis. Iran is replying to these charges with equal abandon. When Europeans return from their August “recess”, they will face an economic reality which will be far more critical to their minds than the millions of dollars being “invested” by the American super-PACS in order to win over the undecided American voters.
America may well want its fall football, a few debates, and a nice beginning to the school year, but we need to prepare ourselves for the reality that for the rest of the world, there is no time out coming for us to elect our president.