Toys and Politics, A Cruel JokeEtch-a-Sketch coverage a distraction for American discourse
Eric Fehrnstrom, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, was asked whether the extended primary fight with the other candidates would push Romney too far to the political right to be competitive in the general election. He responded by saying “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-a-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.” This has quickly become what is possibly the biggest political gaffe of the Republican Primary cycle since Rick Perry’s forgetfulness.
Politicians are known for being inconsistent, but Romney especially has a reputation for being a flip-flopper on many issues. These issues include healthcare (the healthcare plan he created as governor of Massachusetts was used to create the hated “Obamacare”), bailouts (he supported them before they became highly unpopular) and countless more. He is also the richest of the candidates, and is frequently attacked by other candidates as being a greedy corporate raider, even though this contradicts their own state- ments of support for free market capital- ism.
The other candidates have latched onto the Etch-a-Sketch comment and have gone so far as to be seen in recent appearances holding the popular toy. But perhaps the most poignant use of the image has been by Ron Paul. His cam- paign commercials—considered some of the best out there—have recently taken advantage of the gaffe in a unique fashion. In his latest ad, his opponents are shown standing around with the etch-a-sketch toys while words and images showing the problems in this country flash on screen. Images of Santorum and Gingrich hold- ing an etch-a-sketch are juxtaposed with “$15 TRILLION IN DEBT!” “20 MILLION AMERICANS UNEMPLOYED!” and “A COUNTRY AT WAR!”
Regardless of what people think of Ron Paul and his views, his ad raises a very good point. Why are the Republicans debating over who is most capable of set- ting back women’s rights when America is dealing with war, unemployment and debt? Obama deserves some credit for not interfering with the reproductive rights of women or otherwise using religion to affect his policy decisions. However, many feel that he has been slow to deliver “change,” or that he is doing it wrong.
The Republican primaries and the recent Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke incident indicate that for the most part the political conversation in this country has shifted from important matters, like spending and jobs, to contraception and social issues. This isn’t to say that the reproductive rights of women are not important, but there is no good reason to ban contraception or trying to prevent women from having abortions. The wide- spread appearance of a children’s toy in the candidates’ campaigns seems to reflect that many of the candidates are grasping at straws. It is much easier for them to attack an opponent than to defend their own shoddy records. Simple images like these also serve to rally people who are less versed in politics, much like the false accusations of Obama’s secret Muslim religion.
But everyday spent hating Obama for his non-existent “war on religion,” or demanding impractical and counterpro- ductive government programs, is another day that the debt grows larger and larger. Every day the Republican candidates stand waving children’s toys around on stage, the influence of lobbyists grows.
I am not putting the blame on any particular individual or group. Politicians are not inherently bad; many are simply opportunists. In this regard they are all like an Etch-a-Sketch.