Los Angeles, California - In the homestretch of the presidential campaign, several crucial issues have yet to be addressed, USC College panelists said during a recent Trojan Parents Weekend 2008 event.
For example, neither Barack Obama nor John McCain has discussed how the current economic crisis will further complicate broad challenges facing the country - education, health care, immigration and environmental protection.
"But I suggest to you that 3 1/2 weeks in presidential politics is 3 1/2 lifetimes," Dan Schnur, director of the College's Unruh Institute of Politics, said during the Oct. 10 presidential election workshop.
The workshop included Laurie Brand, professor and director of the School of International Relations; Steven Ross, professor and chair of history; and Janelle Wong, associate professor of political science as well as American studies and ethnicity.
"Either one of the candidates still has the opportunity to talk about this (financial) crisis in clear, competent and compelling terms," said Schnur, assistant professor of the practice of political science. "Whichever one of these two men is able to, between now and Nov. 4, more successfully frame this argument, not only will be the next president, but I'd argue deserves to be."
USC College Dean Howard Gillman moderated the discussion in the Taper Hall of Humanities, which drew about 300 people. The discussion was one of several College-sponsored events during Trojan Parents Weekend, which included lectures by university-wide professors.
"In the spirit of the event," Gillman told the crowd, "we're not trying to argue the strengths and weaknesses of different campaigns and candidates. We'd love to create a conversation about the presidential election, about this moment in our history, about some of the issues and circumstances that are shaping political discourse."
During the event, Brand noted that neither candidate has addressed how the current economic crisis affects United States foreign policy.
The U.S. maintains more than 700 military bases on foreign soil in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, said Brand, an expert on Middle East international relations and inter-Arab politics.
In addition to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. has roughly 200,000 more deployed throughout the world. Since Sept. 11, the U.S. has established many new bases in Iraq and central Asia.
Further, in the 2008 fiscal year, the U.S. defense budget will reach more than $700 billion.
"That means the United States alone spends more than the next two military spenders in the world - Europe and China," Brand said.
"Neither candidate has raised the question of how long the U.S. can continue to support this kind of expansive and militarized foreign engagement, which started even before the economic crisis."
According to Brand, another overlooked issue involves American values overseas.
"When was the last time someone talked about the question of torture and the way that torture has been used as part of our external engagements?" Brand asked.
"In thinking about our involvement overseas," she said, "there's too great a gap between what the American people understand the U.S. mission to be, and what Washington often says our mission is, and what people on the ground experience."
One way to close that gap, Brand suggested, would be for the government to come to terms with issues of foreign policy values such as the question of torture.
The general election discourse also has largely ignored the significance of Latino and Asian American voters, the largest immigrant groups in the U.S., constituting 75 percent of the foreign-born population.
Wong, whose research centers on race, ethnicity and politics, said Latino and Asian American citizens represent a large number of undecided voters.
"We think about soccer moms and hockey moms, we think about NASCAR dads, but what few people realize is that Latinos and Asian Americans also constitute a rich pool of undecided voters."
Although most immigrants live in blue states, where residents predominantly vote for the Democratic Party, Asian American and Latino populations are growing rapidly in swing states such as Florida, Nevada and Colorado, Wong said. In those states, Latinos represent one of every 10 voters.
In addition, the Latino voter turnout is increasing. In Florida alone, the turnout jumped from 64,000 to more than 200,000 between 2004 and 2008.
Also in recent years, the Asian American population has more than doubled in swing states such as Nevada, Florida, New Hampshire and Georgia. In the past decade, the Asian American population has increased 84 percent in the Midwest and 107 percent in the South, she said.
Wong, who recently completed a poll of 4,000 Asian Americans in eight languages, said that nationwide - including battleground states - 42 percent of Asian Americans plan to vote for Obama and 24 percent plan to vote for McCain, but a significant 34 percent remain undecided.
"So as campaigns are looking for pockets of voters to bring over," she said, "they might do well to look at these two populations."