Whether the issue is America's role in world, its diplomatic relationship with every corner of the globe, its economy or anything in between, the policies of President Obama and his Republican rival will never be far from the surface.
For example, the year ended with news that the U.S. stock market ended the year up 5.5% and with Mr. Obama's decision to impose new sanctions on Iran. Reuters reports that the Iran's pursuit of a nuclear bomb served as the basis for the president's decision.
Tensions between Iran and the West have grown since EU leaders said they wanted to set tougher sanctions against Tehran by the end of next month in a bid to force it to curb a research programme that they suspect is developing nuclear weapons.
In a related move, the White House also authorized more than $3-billion in arms sale to the United Arab Emirates.
In the absence of a fresh mandate from the U.N. Security Council, which has already imposed four rounds of global sanctions, Washington has also stepped up the pressure with sanctions on financial institutions that deal with Iran's central bank.
The Obama administration will want to use each issue as a sign that it is making America stronger and safer. However, too many Americans remain out of work and the U.S. continues to struggle in changing its perception in the Middle East. There's no doubt that the Republican nominee will suggest time and again that the president cannot create jobs and cannot lead efforts at peace.
Making the president's job more difficult is the opportunity that Republicans have to hold onto their majority in the House while taking the majority in the Senate. Bloomberg takes a look at the Republicans' prospects for the Senate.
If the stock market continues to rise and unemployment continues to decline, the president's chances for re-election appear more likely. Nevertheless, securing the White House but losing the Senate almost certainly dooms the United States to four more years of divided government.Democrats are defending 23 seats in 2012, compared with 10 for the Republicans. ...To wrest control of the Senate, Republicans need a net gain of four seats in next November's elections if President Barack Obama wins a second term. A Republican victory in the presidential race would reduce the needed pickup to three seats because the vice president casts tie-breaking votes.
But what else does America need to consider in the New Year? It might want to think about what it expects out of its institutions. The media definitely fall into that category; and with my opinions on this matter well known, I'll simply say that if the country is satisfied with shallow entertainment, minimal serious political conversation and opinion masquerading as news, then it cannot be informed to the degree necessary to sustain a democracy.
Preachy? Too bad.
America can do better in so many ways --how we treat our fellow citizens, how we talk about our country's values, how we deal with people we see as "different,: how we lust after technological gadgets and other status-symbol items, and what we want our image to be throughout the world.
I hope those conversations take place over the next 12 months. I admit that I'm less than optimistic.