Foreign Affairs Should Move to the Front Burner in Congressional Races 

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Former University of Memphis law professor Larry Pivnick, whose underdog candidacy for Congress in the 8th District is discussed in this issue, turned up at a meeting of the Germantown Democratic Club last week with copies of

a broadside he intended to pass out in support of his campaign. On a single sheet of paper were crowded 12 bullet points, dealing with foreign policy issues relating to Israel/Hamas, eastern Ukraine, and other potential flashpoints on most of the continents of the known world.

Another subject, that of the amount of attention, which the media owe a candidate like himself, a certifiable longshot, came to occupy Pivnick, however — to the point that, when his time came to say a few words, he ditched his intended subject and discoursed instead on the problems that political neophytes like himself have in transcending anonymity.

"Discoursed" is something of a euphemism; the (usually) mild-mannered ex-academic, who normally lectures in what might be considered a professorial style, was hot under the collar and, as a result, was making his points sharply, concisely, and directly — in a mode, in other words, that might work for him out on the hustings.

As for the discarded 12-point position paper, it is highly doubtful that there were — or are — any votes in it, however Pivnick might choose to deliver it. It has been a long time since foreign policy played a major role in determining the outcome of American political contests, and the further down the power chain you go — to the level of congressional candidates, say — the more minute is the impact of such matters on the electorate. That's the bottom line — especially so, one might conjecture, in the mainly rural and agriculture-oriented 8th District, despite the inclusion of a hunk of eastern Shelby County in the redistricting that followed the census of 2010.

Even more to the point, freshly elected congressmen have almost no say on which committees they're assigned to (Foreign Affairs is a plum for the well-tenured) and not much post-assignment influence in them for years to come. The more's the pity. The fact is that rarely have so many global issues posed such direct import on the future of domestic circumstances in the United States — perhaps not since the end of the Cold War.

Or should we say the original Cold War. There may be further surprises to come from the hand of Vladimir Putin, but there is no great mystery as to what he is up to — a wholesale revision of the adverse circumstances imposed on Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union under the terms of what former President George H.W. Bush used to call "the New World Order."

That "order" is now under enormous strain and may not last. Clearly, the Middle East is undergoing unprecedented jihadist ferment virtually everywhere, and the decades-long standoff between Israelis and Palestinians is igniting disastrously, once again. There are multitudes of other such issues, and there would be worse things indeed than having a few more foreign policy mavens on hand in Washington, where they might find that their concerns have jumped all the way to the front burner.

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