I would love to see a graph that depicts the relationship between an issue's actual importance (the X-axis) and the number of times it is discussed or even referenced in American political discourse (the Y-axis). It would be a logarithmic curve that would very tightly hug the two axes, I suspect.
A good example of this is the McCain mantra to drill offshore for oil. It's just a retarded issue. Both sides are equally retarded. It's retarded to oppose offshore drilling, and it's retarded to be so strongly in favor of it that you make it one of the primary planks in your platform. Drilling for oil offshore should be something that some working group deep in the bowels of the Department of Energy proposes and submits to some subcommittee deep in the bowels of Congress, which, after cursory review, sends it off to the Environmental Protection Agency for comment, and if it ever gets passed, it gets mentioned on page 6 of the Wall Street Journal. This should be a governmental background task, not a focal point of policy debate.
But if the Republicans can take such an obscure, back-burner issue and successfully drag it into the spotlight, to their benefit, then I've got a similar issue with which the Democrats can do exactly the same. And that is asserting sovereignty in the Arctic.
There's another Cold War brewing, and that was true even before the Russian invasion of Georgia. It is estimated that 13% - 25% of the world's untapped oil and natural gas reserves are locked beneath the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean. There are five nations with coastline along the Arctic Ocean -- the US, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Russia. The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has been busy for years with proposals from one or more of these five nations, each trying to ensure that future shipping lanes, commercial fishing zones, and petrochemical extraction fields are divided up to their advantage. Russia recently planted a flag under the seabed of the North Pole. The world in general is realizing that, if it must piss off backward locals in order to extract oil, it would happily trade away Arabs with rocket launchers in favor of Eskimos with homemade kayaks. All the elements are there to make the Arctic the premier battleground in the 21st-century war for global economic supremacy. And we shouldn't waste time in asserting our intent to dominate.
This would seem like the perfect Republican talking point: it involves saber-rattling and whipping up of nationalistic furor; it furthers the interests of domestic Big Oil; it gives hawks a new angle from which to demonize Russia. But Republicans never mention it, and there's one hilariously good reason:
It presupposes the validity of global warming.
The only reason all these issues are coming to a head is that the ice is melting. Pretty soon the Arctic Ocean will truly be exploitable like a real ocean, instead of being this frozen vacant lot stuck on top of the planet.
Obviously the other four Arctic nations agree about global warming, or they wouldn't be rushing now to stake their claims. What good would such claims be without massive melting of the ice? They'd own closed shipping lanes and wells whose weatherproofing and maintenance costs would exceed the value of the petroleum they extract. The region is valueless without global warming.
If Democrats were to start talking about this, it would help them in a couple ways. First off, it would help explode their image among conservatives as a bunch of namby-pamby pacifists who never want to exert military might to further the country's goals. It would also allow them to not merely fold to the "drill now" mantra, but in fact do it one better. And it would force Republicans to acknowledge the reality of global warming.
Fuck Canada! The Northwest Passage is ours for the taking! Who's with me?