With just a year until the next presidential election, the very first one that I can vote in, I’m starting to get interested. I’m reading about the contested candidates, checking out the competition and agonizing over the fact that I really have no say in how the race shapes up next year. Many of the candidates in the Republican field get attention for all the wrong reasons: Mitt is a flip-flopper, Herman makes gaffes and allegedly sexually harasses, Rick doubled Texas’ spending and debt.
This does not make anyone feel confident in the potential outcomes of the Republican race. Frankly, the competition between President Obama and whoever wins the Republican candidacy is going to be tough, if the President’s popularity drop is any indication. If Obama were more popular, I might want to vote for a weak Republican in the primary to boost Obama’s chances in the regular election. Instead, I find myself wishing I lived in Georgia or New Hampshire or one of the other states where you don’t have to be affiliated with a political party to vote in its primary; that way, I could participate in finding a legitimate potential alternative, just in case.
So, while I plan on voting to reelect President Obama, next year’s election means a lot. In a system where politics are so incredibly polarized, it is fundamental that the quality of the candidates be preserved. Otherwise, the two party system is less effective than it should be; subpar candidates mean subpar representation of what citizens want and of the diversity of opinion in the United States. When candidates cannot meet expectations or have poor track records, the press represents them unfavorably. In turn, it becomes harder for people to understand each other — it becomes easy to mock and difficult to compromise.
Things are going badly in the United States right now; this presidential election needs to serve as an opportunity for the two parties to showcase their best ideas to get us out of the economic and military rut we find ourselves in. Those candidates who are viable choices should be emphasized and reported on, and hopefully the tide will turn that way for one candidate in particular.
Of the 16 current candidates, one is able to legitimately add the Republican voice to the presidential race: Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah. He is taken seriously by both sides of the aisle, is committed to the Republican Party and has valuable experience pertinent to the presidency.
Huntsman is a California-born Mormon with experience in domestic politics as the Governor of Utah and international politics as the U.S. Ambassador to China under President Obama. He enjoyed incredibly high popularity during his term as Governor — Utah was noted by the Pew Center to have been the best-run state at the time. He slashed taxes, true to traditional Republican goals and not something I’d necessarily advocate, but also implemented strong job-producing policies. He speaks fluent Mandarin and, by all accounts, worked well with President Obama in the precarious realm of China-U.S. relations. He has implicitly supported bills restricting a woman’s right to choose and supporting civil unions over same-sex marriages, social stances that liberals will be hard-pressed to agree with. He also, however, has addressed other social issues like immigration with pragmatic and sensitive solutions, allowing illegal immigrants to carry driver’s licenses.
Huntsman is a candidate who should be praised for his accomplishments and held up as an example for the rest of the field — yet sadly he finds himself overshadowed in straw polls in crucial states. If I were from Georgia or New Hampshire or one of those other states, I would vote for Huntsman — and not because I believe in everything he says, but because I believe he could represent the country effectively and comprehensively.
In the Republican field, there are others who deserve more attention than the media is currently giving htem. Fred Karger, political activist, Washington insider and the first openly gay individual to run for the presidency, deserves a special commendation for bringing the Republican candidacy somewhere unconventional. He is a refreshing example that within parties, people can diverge on certain issues: in this case, he supports LGBT rights and a woman’s right to choose, but still espouses the small government and tax and social welfare policies favored by his party. Maybe we need a candidate who shakes up the paradigm we see politics through; maybe today’s hot-button issues are not as black and white nor as crucial to party identity as we thought.
In addition to giving my vote for the Republican primary, I want to urge people to think outside of their parties and recognize the strengths in candidates of other political affiliations. If there were increased discourse in the primaries of opposite parties, there would be less of an “us versus them” mentality in politics. When I say discourse, I mean discussion of similarities and identification of candidates who people could love, or at least tolerate. Discourse, in this case, should not equate with vitriolic pundit exchanges. Hopefully polls and the media will begin to indicate positives of the 2012 Republican candidates — otherwise, we might be stuck with a deficient race and a shoddily handled opportunity for political exchange.
Maggie Henry is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at email@example.com. Get Over Yourself appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.