It seems as though every day a different presidential candidate makes some obscene comment about an issue that’s both topical and sensitive. Wednesday was no exception.
Jezebel reported Wednesday that United States presidential candidate Bobby Jindal penned a blog post this week in response to the Roseburg, Oregon, shooting last Thursday, in which he, to quote the Jezebel headline, “Blames Oregon Shooting on Abortion and Single Mothers.”
Yes, you read that correctly. According to Jezebel, in response to the Oregon shooter’s father’s request for stricter gun laws, Jindal wrote, “This killer’s father is now lecturing us on the need for gun control and he says he has no idea how or where his son got the guns. Of course he doesn’t know. You know why he doesn’t know? Because he is not, and has never been in his son’s life. He’s a complete failure as a father, he should be embarrassed to even show his face in public. He’s the problem here. … He owes us all an apology.”
This follows the comment fellow candidate Ben Carson made Monday regarding the issue in one of his Facebook Q&As, which have become a staple of his campaign. According to NBC News, Carson wrote, “that he had operated on victims of gun violence ‘but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.’”
But let’s not focus on gun laws and Second Amendment rights. Let’s focus on the absurdity of these comments in general.
Our first instinct is to brush them aside and to say they don’t matter. We text our friends about these comments and sit through the Republican and Democratic debates with popcorn in hand, waiting to hear the next ridiculous statement a candidate will make. After all, maybe we weren’t going to vote for Ben Carson to begin with.
But the fact is, they do matter. These are the people who have the political ability to make changes and act on their opinions. And while some liberals may strongly believe that these candidates are horrible and that their preposterous comments are offensive, wrong and sometimes even laughable, these candidates each have a tried and true following, and these comments resonate with somebody. Ben Carson’s staunchest followers will praise him for favoring guns over lives, and Bobby Jindal’s supporters will commend his comments on fatherhood. Their target audiences feed off of their words. And as incredible as Donald Trump’s comments about Mexicans are, people agree with them.
Of course, while it doesn’t do us any good to get riled up every time a tasteless comment makes headlines, we shouldn’t hope for an end to the coverage. If former U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s 2012 Senate bid was any indication, there is a line, at some point, that people will draw. The more candidates trample each other on their way to the fringes, the closer they come to that line. This sparks the question, though: what will happen when there are only three candidates left?
Keep in mind, Politico calls independent voters “key” to the taking of elections. And while the primary race remains a scramble to see who can be the “most Republican,” history shows general races are won from the middle. Leaning back toward the center is one thing, but you simply can’t backtrack on comments this intense. Ideally, the headlines would relate to comments about taxes and the Keystone XL pipeline. Instead, we’re caught up with a batch of people running for office who say whatever pops into their minds at the time. By keeping us informed on who says what, though, the media provides us the ability to go back and call these candidates out on stances they previously took and will be trying to change.
The same set-up occurs in less ridiculous elections as well. Even Mitt Romney was forced to flip-flop his stances throughout his 2012 presidential campaign. Four years ago, we were talking about the idea that Romney wasn’t a man of the people. Now, we are considering a man famous for saying “You’re Fired” on television a few times a year as the potential leader of the free world.
But in all honesty, without the media’s focus on these comments, the public would never know what these candidates are actually like. These types of stories provide us with the best judge of character. Candidates’ squeaky-clean websites filled with political buzzwords and catchy jargon take weeks and months to calculate and create. These comments, however, are made without that same type of preparation. And while press reps may be standing behind the curtain with a hand in their puppets during debates and interviews, their mouths seem to move without the need for strings.
It seems that the true moderate standout in this election is Jeb Bush. His “stuff happens” comment in regard to the Oregon shooting was not nearly as offensive as the other candidates’, but more generally, Bush hasn’t taken much part in the shouting match. He remains quiet when other candidates scream to be heard, instead working to differentiate himself from his father and brother.
What’s so intriguing about this is that while the Republican candidates pull each other to the right, Bernie Sanders has yet to pull Hillary Clinton all the way to the left. In fact, it seems that Clinton’s more moderate stances are doing more good for her than sliding to the left ever would.
Interestingly, both moderate candidates come from political dynasties. Maybe that’s the answer to winning after all. But for now, we will keep watching presidential candidates fall further and further into their words, unable to crawl out when the race finally calls for common ground.