Michele Bachmann

Candidates prepare for months, sometimes years, to get ready. They give interviews in front of huge crowds of people to gain support. Intense focus is allocated for raising money through sponsors to pay for supplies for the long journey ahead. Entire staffs of people dedicate themselves to image control and maintenance: all outfits are picked out, every hair is in place and more time is spent on grooming than ever before. The competitors go against each other until, one by one, they’re forced out. Eventually, only one winner will survive.

No, I’m not talking about the movie with the biggest opening weekend for a non-sequel, The Hunger Games. The seemingly post-apocalyptic future described above is actually a depiction of what’s going on in this year’s Republican presidential primary race. The original field of nine — Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney — has narrowed itself down to three contenders. Really it’s more like two because who still thinks Gingrich has a chance?

As soon as things got bloody at the Cornucopia, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump were some of the first to go. They spent too much time slinging barbs at everyone else and not enough enough time gaining supporters. Pawlenty is another one that was ousted early, much like the girl in the woods minding her own business that was killed by the Careers.

And then, there was one candidate that somehow seemed less clownish than the others, Huntsman. He came in with experience. He didn’t spend time going negative with attack ads. He seemed rational and was the great hope of the entire race. His loss in New Hampshire felt like watching the beloved Rue get stabbed in the chest with a spear all over again.

Bachmann is a good representation of the crazy girl with the knives in The Hunger Games that no one was sad to see leave. Cain was taken out by some tracker jackers — women he allegedly sexually harassed that swarmed and fought back from his past. Perry seemed like he had a good shot for awhile, but was eventually his own worst enemy and poisoned himself, like the berries that killed Foxface, with his constant missteps and blunders.

Paul is an iconoclast and distances himself from the rest, like Thresh’s technique to hide in the wheat field. Also, like Thresh, Paul has strength in his group of ardent supporters; however, it’s not enough to win the election. Gingrich then becomes Cato in this story. Just like Cato, he attacks all opponents and tries to bully his way to the top. Fortunately for all of us, we know the demons from his past, or muttations, will make sure he doesn’t make it much further.

And then we’re left with Romney and Santorum, or Peeta and Katniss. Romney, like Katniss, is the clear stronger candidate left. And just like Peeta and Katniss, can we really trust anything either one says? Or do they only say what they think will keep them alive longer in this Hunger Games style primary race? It’s for this reason that Santorum has made anti-college statements, even though when he was a Senator in 2006 he called for all Pennsylvania citizens to have access to higher education. It’s why Romney derides “Obamacare,” but instituted universal healthcare in Massachusetts, or Romneycare first. Both candidates say whatever they think will get them the most support at the time, and it’s unclear what either one actually believes.

So no matter who’s left at the end, does anyone really win? Or will the candidate be forever haunted by the transformation he underwent to survive this process? And what about the rest of us? Will we elect a hero or someone who can’t keep it together when things get tough like Katniss?

And if this is what the race for President has come down to, are we any better than the people of Panem that tune in to watch the Hunger Games every year rather than doing something to demand change?

Taylor is a Plan II and rhetoric and writing senior. 

Last Thursday, in a desperate attempt to win support for her flagging presidential campaign, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) introduced a piece of federal legislation that would mandate that women seeking an abortion be exposed to the results of an ultrasound prior to the procedure. The controversial bill is an attempt by Bachmann to shift attention from the economy to social issues.

“In the midst of the number one issue, which is jobs and the economy, we don’t want to forget the issue of life,” Bachmann said at a media even in Iowa. Clearly, as part of the shift in her campaign, the ultrasound bill is strategically aimed at securing the support and votes of conservative, pro-life constituents at a time when Bachmann lags well behind her Republican opponents.

A poll released by the Institute of Politics at Harvard on Monday justifies Bachmann’s desperate attempt to regain strength as a presidential candidate. It indicated that she has only 3 percent of public support and ranks 7th among the Republican candidates. Meanwhile, a Washington Post/Bloomberg poll revealed that Americans believe Bachmann, along with Gov Rick Perry, would do the most harm to the economy if elected president. No wonder Bachmann has shifted her platform from the economy to social issues by endorsing the reinstatement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and introducing this ultrasound bill in Congress.

“The ‘Heartbeat Informed Consent Act,’ that I introduced today, would require that abortion providers make the unborn child’s heartbeat visible through ultrasound, describe the cardiac activity and make the baby’s heartbeat audible, if the child is old enough for it to be detectable,” Bachmann explained.

If the bill sounds all too familiar, don’t worry, you’re not experiencing déjà vu. The act closely resembles the sonogram law that ignited controversy this summer in Texas. The Texas bill, widely criticized as intrusive and unconstitutional, would have required women undergoing an abortion to be subjected to a sonogram within 24 hours of the procedure. The women would also need to listen to a description of the images and to the fetus’ heartbeat. The Texas bill was signed into a law by pro-life Gov. Rick Perry last May, only to be blocked three months later by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks. In his opinion, it would violate the First Amendment by forcing physicians and patients to engage in government-mandated speech. The measure is now under appeal. Meanwhile, Texas is prohibited from enforcing the law.

Given the controversy over the sonogram law in Texas and its ongoing appeal, it is clear that Bachmann’s Heartbeat Informed Consent Act introduced is a dead-end bill that has no chance of becoming a law. The irony is that she has managed to introduce an arguably unconstitutional bill that has no future, but has been so busy with her presidential campaign that she has failed to cast a single vote in Congress since the month of August.

Clearly, the primary concern for Bachmann is not to represent the interest of her constituents, as she has neglected her basic responsibilities as a representative by failing to vote in Congress. Instead, with the “Heartbeat Informed Consent Act,” Bachmann is making her standpoint on the issue of abortion clear and placing her stance on social issues at the center of her campaign in hopes that this will attract the conservative voting population.

Quirico is an economics and international relations junior. 

Printed on Friday, October 14, 2011 as: Final beats of a political heart

In the past two election cycles, the only women who have gotten anywhere close to being elected to the White House have been Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. But perhaps you know the two of them better by their media-given nicknames: “The Ice Queen” and “The Hockey Mom.” The characterizations of these two female politicians illustrate everything that is wrong with attitudes toward female politicians in this country. Women can wear either pant-suits and be considered too masculine, or they can wear skirt-suits and not be taken seriously. Women can refuse to talk about their family life to focus on business, or they can spend so much time talking about their kids that their offspring become national celebrities and contestants on Dancing with the Stars.

Women can appear calm, stoic and incapable of emotion or flighty, empathetic and overly emotional. Women are either so intelligent that they seem too dogmatic or so under-read that they are incapable of naming even a single newspaper they read. Women either travel all over the world to form foreign policy initiatives or are able to see Russia from their house. Women are either too manly and unattractive or so overtly sexual that even their outdoor jogging attire is sexualized.

No matter whom you supported, no woman fits neatly into either category, including Palin and Clinton. Occasionally Clinton shed some tears, and given her success, Palin must have more savvy and charisma than I give her credit for. What’s even more damaging is the result these characterizations have on voter habits.

USA Today reported at this time last year that sexist insults harm feminine candidates’ political standing. Research showed that even mild sexist language caused female candidates to lose twice as much support as regular insults and caused voters to view the candidate as “less empathetic, trustworthy and effective.”

So how do women break into this man’s world without falling into one of the outlying extremes described above? And then we have this year’s sole female contender for president: Michele Bachmann. She brings in the good looks and devotion to her children as Palin did along with the sharp-tongued and steely-eyed vision of Clinton.

But even this characterization is not quite right. Sure, Bachmann apparently does not read too much either because she once thought John Quincy Adams was a Founding Father, and just recently she cited non-existent scientific evidence to assert a connection between the HPV vaccination and mental retardation. And sure she wears more hair spray than anyone else on stage — a true feat given Governor GoodHair’s presence — showing that she emphasizes her appearance. She also is unafraid to call out her opponents when she thinks they are wrong and to verbally spar with all of her male counterparts over various political minutiae, a tactic seemingly more suited to the Hillary Clintons of the world.

Women are both all of these things and none of these things. No woman can fit into the above delineations of what a female politician is like, nor should she try to. The larger problem is the overall lack of female political leaders we have to aspire to be or to learn from. There is not an equivalent to the “Founding Fathers” for women, and perhaps that is why women are still struggling to come up with an effective style of political leadership. Even our University is a good example: There has only been one female president of UT in the century-plus time we’ve been around.

There are not enough strong female leaders in America today, and it seems like for now we’re left to the likes of Bachmann. Where have all the good women gone?


Taylor is a Plan II and rhetoric and writing senior.

Republican presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry speaks in Des Moines, Iowa in September. Perry still sits atop polls for the GOP presidential nomination race, while Republican rivals are struggling to find a coherent, easy-to-grasp argument against the Texas governor.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Rick Perry’s Republican rivals are struggling to find a coherent, easy-to-grasp argument against the Texas governor, who tops GOP presidential polls despite attacks from all sides.

In fact, it’s the “all sides” nature that complicates the opposition’s message. Republican voters who watched last week’s presidential debate and its aftermath might wonder: Should I see Perry as too conservative or too moderate?

Perry is the newest face in the GOP race and his opponents are determined to define him for primary voters, casting him as liberal, conservative and unelectable. They hope their characterizations of the front-runner take hold before he has a chance to sway opinions.

Mitt Romney depicts Perry’s criticisms of Social Security as too far to the right. “If we nominate someone who the Democrats could correctly characterize as being against Social Security, we will be obliterated as a party,” the former Massachusetts governor said recently.

On immigration, however, Romney and other opponents say Perry veers too far left. The governor opposes a fence along the entire border with Mexico, and he granted in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants in Texas.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann contends that Perry is too lax about individual freedoms because he wanted Texas to vaccinate all schoolgirls against a sexually transmitted disease.

This anti-Perry strategy forces voters to sort through subtleties and contradictory narratives. Fair or not, it’s easier for people to grasp bold, unambiguous images of politicians as conservative or liberal.

Overall, Perry’s record is mostly conservative. But he’s parted ways with his GOP base on a handful of issues, including immigration and the HPV vaccine.

Perry’s rivals will get more chances to probe for political soft spots this week, in a series of forums in Florida and Michigan. On Thursday, Republicans candidates gather for another televised debate.

For now, their tactic is to “criticize Perry on Social Security from one angle, and on immigration from the other,” said Dan Schnur, a University of Southern California political scientist and veteran of several Republican campaigns.

Terry Holt, a Washington-based GOP strategist, said Perry continues to do well because his opponents’ criticisms are missing a broader point while barely denting his main strengths: His image as a bold, honest, can-do leader.

“It’s a bit too tactical, and it ignores the larger imperative: Can you be an alternative to the vision Barack Obama offers? Can you be authentic?” Holt said.

Rich Galen, another veteran GOP campaign strategist, said the real goal of Perry’s rivals is to convince enough Republican activists that he can’t defeat Obama.

“What they’re trying to do, really, is not influence Republican primary voters directly,” Galen said. Instead, they want to convince “independents and moderates that Perry is not trustworthy or is too kooky.”

If die-hard conservatives believe independent voters would reject Perry in November 2012, Galen said, they may turn to Romney or others, even if they like Perry’s positions. “It’s a bank shot,” he said.

Some Republican insiders question the strategy of trying to turn conservatives against Perry with the “he can’t beat Obama” claim.

“I don’t think they can make that case,” said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., a 19-year House member. Perry has a good staff, strong fundraising skills and “a good story on jobs” as governor, said Kingston, who backs fellow Georgian Newt Gingrich in the presidential race.

Schnur agreed. “Arguing electability is usually a loser in the presidential primary,” he said. “Ask Hillary Clinton.”

Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman hurt by Perry’s rise, is hammering his bid to require vaccines for Texas girls to combat a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer.

“I oppose anyone who mandates a family’s health care choices and violates the rights of parents,” Bachmann says in campaign video.

She also has pointed out that the company that makes the vaccine, Merck & Co., employed Mike Toomey, Perry’s former chief of staff, as a lobbyist in Texas, and that the drug company had donated to Perry’s campaigns.

In last week’s debate, Perry noted that parents had the right to reject the vaccines. But he said he mishandled the policy, which was never implemented.

Some of Perry’s vulnerabilities stem from making the sort of concessions that virtually all governors make to balance competing interests. Despite boos from the debate audience last week, Perry defended his decision to grant in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants seeking citizenship.

“I’m proud that we are having those individuals be contributing members of our society rather than telling them, ‘You go be on the government dole,’” Perry said.

The stance has a pragmatic aura that could clash with Romney’s efforts to paint Perry as an ideologue who’s out of the mainstream on matters such as Social Security.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said he supports Bachmann and wants to be convinced of Romney’s conservative credentials.

Romney’s Massachusetts health care record “is very damning to him, as well as some of his changing positions on major issues like abortion,” Franks said, a reference to the health care plan that was the basis for Obama’s overhaul law.

Printed on September 20, 2011 as: Perry targeted by Republican rivals

At Monday’s CNN/Tea Party Republican debate there may have been eight candidates on the stage but all eyes, including those of his opponents, were on the man in the middle: Gov. Rick Perry. The majority of the evening was occupied by also-rans, such as former Pennsylvania Sen.

Rick Santorum and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, desperately striving to stay relevant by hurling criticism at the apparent frontrunner. And while the majority of their attacks were focused on Perry’s 2007 executive order concerning HPV vaccines, one of the criticisms lobbed at Perry has particular gravity for many UT students.

When asked how the GOP planned to attract Latino voters, Santorum immediately turned the question into an opportunity to attack Perry and the state of Texas for a 2001 law that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates. Other candidates joined the piling-on, including Bachmann, who chimed in that “I think that the American Way is not to give taxpayer-subsided benefits to people who’ve broken our laws.” Of course, children who are illegally brought over to this country by their parents are not criminally liable in the sense that Bachmann asserted, but the congresswoman has always been more disposed to sound-bites than to actual policy analysis.

Even former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a candidate who’s always sounded more “country club” than “county fair,” took the opportunity to attack the policy saying that it “only attracts people to continue to come here and continue to take advantage.”

Why of course Romney, it’s not potential employment or freedom from violence that’s driving illegal immigrants across the border. It’s the promise of $5,000 instead of $12,000 for a liberal arts degree. How blind we’ve been.

At the root of the issue is a certain moral cavity that rears its head every election cycle: that politicians abandon sensible policy positions for party-line talking points to pander to a base that makes up a tiny fraction of the electorate. In this case, both Texas’ policy and the proposed national DREAM Act are smart, efficient policies that get thrown to the wayside because Bachmann is louder when she screams for English to be the national language.

There are already eight states other than Texas that offer in-state tuition rates for undocumented students including California, Illinois, New York and candidate Jon Huntsman’s Utah. Furthermore, only two of the other seven GOP candidates have executive leadership experience (Huntsman and Romney) and neither has had to govern a state with a scope of issues as broad as Texas’.

Texas’ in-state tuition policy is more than a civil rights, immigration or law enforcement issue – it’s good economic sense. Currently the state invests significant funds in educating undocumented students from K-12. By denying those students access to higher education or to the job market, Texas would be wasting that investment while squandering valuable human capital. The students targeted by this type of legislation are not your run-of-the-mill teenagers. They are exceptionally bright, having performed well enough to matriculate and graduate from a top university, and could immediately contribute to the work force.

The only alternative would seem to be to deny undocumented children even basic access to education, a course of action that is as irresponsible as it is repulsive.

If the issue is truly a matter of taxes, as Bachmann implies, then providing a path to permanent residency should only help alleviate that problem. These students already pay sales tax. Why not allow them to pay income tax, property tax, etc. as well? Besides, there are already many Texans who pay less in taxes or receive more in-state benefits than undocumented families do. Yet we do not try to make a moral or economic argument to bar them from state higher education.

To deny qualified undocumented students access to the work force because of some asinine political grandstanding is a preposterous waste of human capital and state resources. Given vicious rhetoric thrown around in recent months and the promise of an especially contentious election, it was refreshing to see Perry defending this state’s policy amid an ever-growing rabble of fear-mongering and name-calling. Other moderate-conservative candidates such as Romney should take note that rallying the party’s base doesn’t have to mean abandoning sound and thoughtful policies.

Player is a first-year student in the School of Law.

Candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry answers a question as candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney listens during a Republican presidential candidate debate at the Reagan Library on Wednesday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Eager to tangle, Republican presidential rivals Rick Perry and Mitt Romney each laid claim to a better job-creating record as governor Wednesday night in a lively campaign debate that marked a new turn in the race to pick a 2012 challenger to President Barack Obama.

“Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt,” Perry jabbed, referring to Romney’s predecessor as Democratic governor in Massachusetts.

“As a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessors created jobs at a faster rate than you did,” Romney shot back at Perry.

The debate was the first of three in as many weeks, at a time the polls show Obama’s popularity sinking.

Perry and Romney stood next to each other on the debate stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, a symbolic setting that invoked the memory of the conservative Republican who swept to two terms as president.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman sided with Perry when he turned to Romney and said, “47th just isn’t going to cut it, my friend,” a reference to the rank Massachusetts had among the 50 states in creating jobs during Romney’s term.

Businessman Herman Cain, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania shared the stage for the debate hosted by MSNBC and Politico.

Bachmann said she would provide the “strong, bold leader in the presidency who will lead that effort. None of us should ever think that the repeal bill will just come to our desk,” she said in a pledge that drew applause from the audience.

Gingrich resisted an effort to draw him into conflict with other Republicans on stage. “I’m frankly not interested in your efforts to get Republicans fighting each other,” he said, sparking an even louder round of applause. He said all Republicans should “defeat efforts by the news media” to spark an internal struggle when the real objective is to defeat Obama in 2012.

But moments later, Cain said that after trying to defeat Democratic efforts to create national health care, “I’m running against Romneycare,” the legislation that passed requiring residents of Massachusetts to purchase coverage.