Former First Lady Barbara Bush spoke the truth earlier this month when she called the 2012 presidential race “the worst campaign I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Though candidate mudslinging has been a major component of the American presidential contest about as long as the electoral college, it has grossly overstepped any reasonable limits in recent years. Now, the GOP primary has rendered itself an indecipherable mess and left the Republican Party a laughingstock in the eyes of moderates everywhere.
In the 11 weeks since the Republican primary began, each candidate has gotten caught up in the bashfest, and made a fool of himself in the process. Rick Santorum, for example, aired an embarrassingly farcical attack ad against Mitt Romney while campaigning in Michigan last month, complete with a slapstick soundtrack, a semi-automatic-toting Romney and a glistening cardboard cutout of Santorum.
Romney, the current Republican favorite, is equally guilty. A radio ad he debuted in Ohio on Super Tuesday featured an attack against Santorum for a 1998 vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the federal circuit court. Sotomayor is now a Supreme Court Justice.
What’s troubling is that Romney’s ad doesn’t criticize this decision as being at odds with any particular Republican principal. Rather, it merely states that “29 of his Republican colleagues voted against her.” Romney has fallen into one of the worst traps for politicians today: putting the party above the platform.
The GOP candidates’ heavy reliance on super PACs further proves that this primary has become about slanderous advertisements rather than about how best to improve our country. It seems that the objective is to ditch any sort of individual view (and thus individual responsibility) in favor of appeasing the Republican machine. This explains why GOP candidates have such a long history of flip-flopping on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. It also threatens to leave us with a president who has no idea how to think for himself.
Statistically, all of this negativity, digression and general chaos has not left conservatives in a good place. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that 49 percent of voters identifying as Democrats said that as they learn more about the GOP candidates, their impression of President Barack Obama is improving, up from 36 percent in December, before the primaries — and the nastiest campaigning — began. Meanwhile, a mere 26 percent of Republicans say their impressions of their candidates have improved.
The men competing in this primary have undermined the integrity of their own contest by ripping on each other, ripping on Obama and portraying Democrat-Republican compromise — the very basis of our law-making system — as some kind of evil.
Bush was right. This campaign is ugly. American voters must be cognizant of this issue and make sure the upcoming presidency doesn’t look even worse.
Francesca Bessey is a freshman majoring in narrative studies.
Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays.