Watching the Republican candidates debate on MSNBC, and even without looking at the television, I constantly hear the buzzwords “jobs,” “Obamacare” and “economy.” Gaining some knowledge about the candidates and their platforms is definitely informative, but their rhetoric has remained relatively unchanged over the last few months. I personally derive a greater amount of enjoyment from watching the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, which show highlight reels of the debate with quips about the various missteps that occur.
The host of one of the shows, Jon Stewart, is amarketing tool shamelessly employed by the College of William and Mary when discussing notable alumni. Another alumni who has remained under the radar until the recent race for the GOP nomination is Michele Bachmann LL.M. ’88, who received her Master’s degree in tax law from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law. I remember commuting to work this summer and listening to National Public Radio when they first mentioned her name as a standout performer in the first GOP debate. Since that time, Bachmann has become a household name. Her face even graced the cover of a recent issue of Newsweek. Her rise goes hand-in-hand with that of the Tea Party, a grassroots movement that advocates a near-wholesale rollback of the federal government intervention in the state governments as well as in the lives of citizens. Bachmann champions this movement and has the support of many of its members.
The position of the Tea Party movement compared to the Republican majority is further to the right on the political spectrum, as seen by the position of many representatives during the debt ceiling debate. Their position created the so-called “debt ceiling showdown” that pushed the United States government to the brink of default.
This no-compromise, far-right position is what typifies the Tea Party movement as well as Bachmann’s platform. Her appeal derives in part from the increasingly heated partisan debate about hot-button issues such as the economy, job creation, gay marriage and abortion. The persistent volatility of the economy and markets has polarized opinions regarding the best solutions to solve our economic woes. Partisan politics have been amplified further by media outlets that project a clear ideology (but I won’t mention names).
I lament Bachmann’s rise mostly due to the rabid partisanship she represents. The spirit of compromise seems to be losing out to the adoption of an extreme stance that gains the attention of media outlets, which prefer stories that sell ideas that are beneficial to getting our economy back on track. Bashing President Barack Obama seems to have become a favorite pastime of the GOP debates and seems to be one of the only ideas upon which all candidates can agree.
I hope politicians in general come up with innovative solutions that can bridge the political divide and solve our economic woes. The student body here at the College needs to ensure that their voices are heard in upcoming elections. We have an important stake in seeing the passage of constructive deals, especially considering the shaky job market many graduates are facing with an ever-increasing amount of debt.
For example, John Huntsman was one of the only GOP candidates who criticized the non-compromising view the Republicans took on the debt ceiling standoff. However, he received little publicity on his stance, so you might have to look beyond the mainstream media to find an in-depth view of the candidates and their position on specific issues. Becoming educated about the American political sphere is one of the best ways you can create effective change and can help to reverse the trend of voter apathy in this country.