Happy Hunger Games and 3 Election Year Distractions

Like many 15-year olds, I was excited to watch “The Hunger Games” when it came out a few weeks ago.  I had read all three books of the trilogy and had rooted for Katniss during her many ordeals in the Orwellian world of Panem.  Also like many, I was firmly on the side of Team Gale during the first book and then switched to Team Peeta by the end.  I stayed up until 3 am on a Tuesday night just watching the online trailers and reading up on the movie production. (Yes, in hindsight, that does seem a bit loser-y.)

So when I finally went to the theater I was ready to be dazzled by the ingenuity, the set, the costumes and the much-hyped performances.

But first things first.  Before I could watch the movie, I had to sit through 30 minutes of trailers for upcoming movies. Usually the trailers are a mix of comedy, horror, drama and a Judd Apatow film.  This time, however, I was shocked. The trailers featured highlights for “The Avengers,” “Mirror Mirror,” “Clash of the Titans,” and “Battleship.”  One after the other, images of death, horror, end-of-world themes, major US cities being wiped out, man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. robots– flashed before my eyes—and not one joke was cracked (although I think Robert Downey Jr. tried.)  After 30 minutes of violence and destruction, I was not so excited to watch a bunch of kids kill each other.

This got me thinking about how loud, flashy events can really distract us from the real focus.  In particular, since it’s an election year, we’ve already seen a lot of drama go down that in hindsight was unlikely to go far (ummm, “9-9-9”???), but definitely had its time on center stage.

And now that Romney has essentially emerged as the Republican nominee, and all of the GOP runners had their five minutes on top, a lot of noise has and will continue to be made about “the issues” that will determine this election.  Here’s a list of distractions—topics that, although relevant, will probably not be deciding factors for voters in November.  They may take over headlines for a moment, but will eventually fade as more urgent concerns take center-stage.

–       Women’s Issues (i.e. “The War on Women!!!”)

While Democrats have in the past accused the GOP of being anti-women, recent events have brought women’s issues to the forefront.  The Republican Senate struck down a bill that would require religious institutions to pay for contraception and other procedures for women.  In addition, Republicans have been accused of voting to cut funding that would provide low-income mothers and their children with food, housing and other necessities.  There have also been Republican-backed bills introduced that would redefine rape more narrowly.

The tables turned a few weeks ago when a Democratic strategist criticized Mrs. Romney saying she never worked a day in her life, thereby creating uproar across party lines about the role of stay-at-home moms.  As women have been turning out to vote in high numbers over the past few elections, both candidates will be sure to include women’s issues on their platforms and lend their support.  However, as the fog of the past few months lifts and the gloves come off, it’s unlikely that this will be a defining issue. Both parties will try to appease women in their own ways to gain their votes, but during this election year in particular, there will be bigger fish to fry.

–       Family Values

Over the past several election cycles, the Republicans have made family values and religion a big part of their platform.  They have maintained that God-fearing men and women built the US and wrote the Constitution, and that this attitude of humility and puritanical values should continue.  It’s no secret that the Evangelical Christians have held a major influence on the Republican Party and their ideals.   The Democrats have fought against this “traditional” definition of family values, trying to maintain what they deem to be a healthy separation between church and state.

As we get closer to the election, the Democrats will likely take the opportunity to closely examine Romney’s Mormon religion, his role in the Mormon Church and his past religious actions and words.  The Republicans will probably bring back the old “Is Obama a Muslim or an Arab?” conundrum, but this again will be noise and further distractions from the main themes of the election.  The family values/religion issue has always played a part in elections, and more so when you have a black man of African descent and a white man from a somewhat obscure offshoot of Christianity running for office.  But again, the main issues that will drive this election—to be discussed in a later post– will require the immediate attention and calculated approach of the candidates, and people will be listening closely to what they have to say.

–       Iraq and Afghanistan

While the “conflicts” in Iraq and Afghanistan and the War on Terror  were driving influences over the past few elections, the US has moved past its former position on physical involvement in the Middle East, and has taken a step back as a strategist and influencer in the region.  The troop withdrawals from both countries have already begun, and the US is currently involved in helping to support new democratic governments in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  While continued violence in those regions indicates that this may not be so easy, it’s clear that the military presence is being used more for strategic purposes and less as a force.

In addition, with the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden last year, the War on Terror seems to have stepped back from the public consciousness.  Not that anyone believes that it’s over, but it doesn’t seem to carry the same resonance as a major platform theme that it had in past elections.  And, as deficit concerns began to mount over the past few years, many Americans began to question the reasoning of US involvement overseas during a time of financial crisis.  Lack of public support may also be why the government resisted becoming directly involved in the civil war in Libya and why they are considering non-military intervention with the resistance in Syria.

The US public will continue to support the government’s role in implementing defensive tactics to protect its citizens from terror attacks, and we will certainly hear from the candidates on these topics as well as on US intervention in the Middle East and other countries.  But this will not be a defining issue that voters take with them into the voting booth.

If you want to read about the issues that will define this year’s presidential election, check out my post tomorrow!

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