Big issues that won’t be discussed in 2024

20-06-2023 01:43 PM
James J. Zogby

As 2024 approaches, it’s clear that partisan posturing over divisive issues will dominate the debates, while many “big issues” will be ignored, largely because neither party will see any advantage to embracing them. Here are three important concerns that will not be discussed in 2024. 

The biggest “big issue” that won’t be on the agenda of either major party is money’s corrupting role in our politics. Ever since the Supreme Court struck down campaign finance reform, the costs of federal elections have skyrocketed. In 2020, over $14 billion were spent on presidential and congressional contests — more than doubling the amount spent in 2016. 

Beyond the amounts, it’s what the money chase has done to our politics that’s concerning. Our political parties no longer exist as organisations that provide grassroots activists with state and local structures and meaningful access to decision-making. Instead, the parties and their related entities are fundraising vehicles, raising hundreds of millions of dollars each election cycle and then dispensing these monies to consulting groups to develop communication strategies, advertising campaigns, and voter contact to raise more money. The issues that matter to the consultants are those that bring in more money. 

Even more damaging to the political process is the role that major donors and “independent” political committees now play in funding elections. In 2020,100 individuals gave more than $1.6 billion to political committees supporting candidates and their parties — more than 11 per cent of the total spent in the entire election. And the amount raised and spent by the “independent committees” was $3.3 billion — giving them an outsized role in determining the issues raised and shaping the outcome of several contests. As we saw in the 2022 elections, some billionaires with special interests spent millions funding their own political committees, which created massive advertising campaigns to tear down candidates they sought to defeat. 

As a result of big money’s role in our politics, both parties have adapted their entire operations to reflect this money chase. And neither appears willing to challenge its corrupting influence.

Another “big issue” that won’t be raised by either party is the absurd amount of money spent maintaining and upgrading our nuclear arsenal. The US currently possesses over 5,500 nuclear warheads (3,700 active, the rest inactive). Russia’s stockpile is almost 6,000. 

The US and Russia possess more of these deadly weapons than one can reasonably argue are even needed. We produce new warheads annually and are currently in the process of upgrading, modernising, and repositioning our arsenal. The cost to the US treasury is over $60 billion annually, or $634 billion over the next decade. 

In the same way that neither party will raise the issue of campaign finance reform — something akin to unilateral disarmament — it’s taboo in politics to speak of placing serious controls on our nuclear arsenal. 

Back in the 1980s, Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign attempted to introduce a platform plank calling on the US to pledge “no first use” of nuclear bombs. Jackson maintained that neither side could ever use a nuclear warhead as it would bring about “mutually assured destruction”. In reality, he argued that that there was “no first use and no second use. In fact, the bomb was no use at all”.

The party establishment reacted negatively, saying that “no first use” would make Democrats appear weak. The resolution was defeated and hasn’t been raised again. 

One more issue that won’t be discussed next year is our bloated defence budget — now pegged at $842 billion for 2024, an increase of over $126 billion in two years — which will continue to grow, unchecked, in the future. It’s no secret that this amount includes significant waste, but no one dares to challenge this “sacred cow”.  

None of this is to suggest that the 2024 election will be without substance. Critical social, political, and economic concerns will be debated. And given the deep polarisation that exists between the two parties on many issues, voters will have a real choice. But it would be so much more consequential if the corrupting role of money in politics, our costly and useless nuclear stockpile, and the bloated defence budget were also up for debate. But, alas, they won’t be discussed in 2024.

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