Rather than promoting their own viewpoints, politicians resort to mudslinging

By Matias Grotewold, ’13

Once upon a time, Abraham Lincoln responded to his opponents’ policy measure by eloquently saying it was “as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death.” Props to anybody who knows what that meant, but my point is that if a candidate today were to word a statement in such a fanciful manner, he would receive a barrage of criticism about being detached from the middle class or the less educated.

As the 2012 presidential elections approach, we are poised to watch one of the most verbally aggressive highlight reels of recent campaign history, with tactless affronts starting in the early campaign stages and continuing through the debates. Verbal barbs between candidates have surpassed the expected topics of policies and politics and entered the realm of irrelevance and rudeness.

Instead of eloquent statements, the comments are dumbed down, and candidates resort to talking about Big Bird and his Sesame Street companions. In the first presidential debate, former Governor Mitt Romney said that as president, he would cut federal funding for less necessary programs, for which he gave PBS—home of the yellow, talking 8’2” bird—as an example.

Granted, Big Bird was a silly example. But Obama seized upon the comment, choosing to criticize Romney through his Big Bird policy instead of the core of his economic platform. According to The Nation’s article by William Baker and Evan Leatherwood, the money spent on PBS, which subsidies Big Bird, is “less than half of what the U.S. Senate spends each year to administer itself.”

Ideally, the campaign criticisms would stick to politics, economics and policy instead of falling to that temptation that is more present than ever of religion and race.

Four years ago, there was a racially fueled fear that Obama would turn the country into a socialist gangster America. As dubbed by New York Times bestselling author David Freddoso, a government under Obama would be a “thugocracy.”

For the most part, Romney has kept away from the race comments and the “birther” comments as well. Apart from saying that “no one [has] ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place where [I] was born and raised,” which according to Romney was just humor and not a swipe at Obama’s nationality, Romney’s comments have not been affected by the so-called “birtherism.”

On the other hand, certain Democrats, specifically Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, did choose to take into critical account Romney’s Mormon faith. After Huffington Post blogger Gregory A. Prince said Romney “sullied” the Mormon faith, Reid, also Mormon, publicly agreed with Prince’s statement.

To some extent, candidates talking badly about their opponents is expected. Criticizing policies is fine. But criticizing the first non-Caucasian candidate’s ethnicity in a country where diversity is, presumably, a good thing, or criticizing a candidate’s religion in a nation of religious freedom at each and every opportunity is most definitely not fine.