As debts accumulate, poverty increases and wars go unchecked, American news channels seem more obsessed with Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain than anything else.
Right now, the biggest tragedy in the U.S. may not actually be the economy. Rather, it’s the way we privilege the two most nonsensical candidates vying for the Republican presidential candidacy over more newsworthy material. Most Americans could probably laugh off Cain’s popularized “9-9-9” tax plan, but they couldn’t say whether we’re drone-attacking Somalia or Yemen — or frankly, where those two nations are even located.
Sure, some of us don’t take Bachmann very seriously. We gasp at how, during the past two years, nine teenagers, many of whom identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, have committed suicide at a school in her Minnesotan district. This is especially troublesome considering Bachmann and her husband’s controversial statements against gay youth.
However, talk of these candidates comes up in our routine lunch conversations. But whether we laugh or shake our heads with frustration, we remain complicit in legitimizing their ludicrous suggestions and insignificant quirks as valuable discourse. The narratives of the “crazy” contenders for the presidency only become important insofar as we are willing to talk about them and allow our media to make their stories our headlines.
The candidates are competing in a race that is crucial to democracy. Still, that doesn’t mean we have to proliferate their sheer stupidity and vanity. The same energy we use to discuss the candidates’ ridiculousness could be rerouted to more critical issues. While it’s perhaps good for us to recognize that Bachmann and Cain would drive our country further into the ground if either became commander in chief, their personal lives shouldn’t saturate our conversations.
It’s time we demand our news focus more specifically on the candidates’ policies and ideologies. The media must act responsibly by questioning whether Bachmann or Cain would continue current trends in U.S. politics — replaying the candidates’ laughable quotes merely for high ratings does not qualify. While such moments are important and sometimes disturbing, they distract us from the larger picture.
Most importantly, we need to be critical thinkers who push for a wider agenda in our media. We must remain enmeshed in the politics of economy, war and poverty so our thinking is not limited to “embarrassing things Bachmann said.” If we don’t ask tough questions, we give the candidates permission to bring more personality than politics to the upcoming election.
Chris Zivalich is a senior journalism major. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org