If the many months of presidential campaigning have shed little light on the actual impact of trade inside the United States, it is in large part because the reality would be difficult to sell even to the most astute voters: that while the impact of globalized trade has indeed hit parts of the United States very hard, trade has also kept the U.S. economy growing with exports and rising foreign investment acting as strong sources of job growth.
Election Issue: The Domestic Politics of U.S. Foreign Policy
It's a truism that American presidential elections are rarely decided by foreign policy. But domestic politics often circumscribes the range of U.S. foreign policy, usually due to competing interests, but at times due to misperceptions. The impact of trade on the U.S. economy has become an easy, and at times unfair, campaign target. The need for immigration reform is perhaps surpassed only by the complex and overlapping political fault lines blocking it. And fear of American decline could do more damage to America's future standing in the world than the global shifts in power actually taking place.
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Even as the Obama and Romney camps both try to curry favor with immigrant voters, the divide between their respective parties on unauthorized immigration is profound. Both candidates agree that major fixes are required to reform the nation's immigration system. Yet both also have been vague about the timing and content of a policy overhaul. For good reason: Immigration reform presents one of the most bedeviling issues on the public agenda today.
At their conventions last month, both the Republican and Democratic parties declared that the United States is not in decline. The very fact that they felt compelled to deny such a claim, however, reveals the degree to which the issue has become part of the domestic political debate over America's global role. Once the electoral dust settles, and no matter who is president, what will be the status of American power in global politics?