China is reportedly teaching the Iranians how to build intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach the U.S., while Iran is simultaneously expanding the uranium enrichment activity that Israel is threatening to bomb. Meanwhile, the United States has recalled its ambassador and all diplomatic personnel from Syria, whose government has escalated the killing of its people, and Egypt has announced it will put on trial 19 Americans who work for non-governmental organizations in the country. Russians are protesting Vladimir Putin in the freezing temperatures that have killed hundreds in Europe, and Greece, on the edge of economic collapse, is building a wall topped with razor wire to keep out illegal immigrants from Turkey. The list goes on. No, it is not just the economy, stupid.
And yet presidential candidates of all persuasions stick to the poll-driven narrative that the upcoming elections are about jobs, jobs and only jobs. A lot of people are still hurting badly in America, domestic economic issues continue to be a source of enormous concern, and this country’s social and economic divisions must be addressed. But America does not exist in a bubble cushioned from the rest of the world. Candidates, whether incumbents or not, get to define the issues in short-term insular ways that allow them to stay on message and play to their audiences. Those responsible for making actual decisions must contend with a much more complex and uncertain world.