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The Amazing Race: White House 2016

| Thursday, September 17, 2015

“Do you think it’s fair that Hillary’s hair gets a lot more scrutiny than yours does?”

If you had to guess, where would you say this question came from? A dramatic reality TV series that you would never admit you were a fan of in public? The kind of gossip-filled magazine you would never keep in your house but read at every salon visit? Well … sort of.

Based on the question’s content those are all very good guesses, but this question comes from a different source of entertainment — one that has seemingly become more drama-filled than “The Hills” and more drenched in mindless gossip than “Star.”

The race for the 2016 Presidential candidacy.

The “Hillary” mentioned in the quote is Hillary Clinton, and the question itself was asked of Bernie Sanders by the New York Times. This is not an isolated incident or a mindless gaffe. In fact, this type of language is becoming more and more commonplace in both the 2016 election and American politics in general.

For example, let’s look at last night’s GOP Presidential primary debate.

With U.S. income inequality at the highest it has been since 1928, the influence of the Islamic State (ISIS) continuing to spread throughout and beyond the Middle East and the fact that there were 204 mass shootings in the first 204 days of 2015 among a myriad of other historically pressing issues facing our nation, what would you think would be the first question of a debate designed to select a nominee for the next leader of this country?

You guessed it: an inquiry into the apparent feud between Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina.

Though it was masked as question related to national security, this question was a thinly-veiled attempt to fuel the ever-entertaining but wholly unproductive fight between Fiorina and Trump which has taken over recent news.  The type of dialogue spurned by this question continued as Rand Paul, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker jumped into the conversation, and the stage stopped resembling a debate and began to resemble an episode of “The Real World: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Edition.”

While the moderators and candidates eventually got around to real issues, the gossip-fest was far from over. After a bout of serious discussion on foreign policy, the first segment ended with an all-important question to Carly Fiorina: How did she feel about Donald Trump making negative comments about her face? Suddenly the Republican candidate pool once again succumbed to the petty bickering and personality jabs that have become characteristic of the race thus far.

In this debate, we had political reality sandwiched between ‘reality’ TV. With the first debate segment beginning and ending with Trump and Fiorina’s personal feud, digs at candidates who aren’t polling so well and of course references to Trump’s exorbitant wealth, one could easily forget some real issues were discussed. Candidates addressed and argued about the details and wisdom of the Iran deal, about Russia’s action in Syria, special interest groups and the issue of funding for Planned Parenthood.

But little to none of this will make the headlines or even be discussed on political talk shows. Why? Because Americans are enamored with the non-political, with the absurd and amusing. We’ve sacrificed our focus on reality and moved on to something more closely resembling “Jersey Shore.” While real issues were covered, many of them of great urgency and concern, they were easily lost to the noise of bickering about personal appearance and the spectacle of Donald’s smirks.

Which leads us to ask: Is this the only way to get people involved in politics? Is the Iran nuclear deal too boring? Does the Planned Parenthood controversy leave viewers wanting in entertainment? Or, perhaps, does the media underestimate the American people and our passion for the issues that directly affect our lives?

While we can’t force the media to ask the important questions, and we can’t force our political candidates to answer them, what we can control is whether we succumb to the gossip-filled, mudslinging, reality TV series this presidential race has become. Too many times we have found ourselves skipping over news stories pertaining to real issues like the impending government shutdown or tax reform in order to read about the latest controversial Donald Trump quote, and many of us have probably had the same experience — it’s only human. In the same way we are tempted to sleep through our morning classes everyday, get into Yik Yak wars every time we see something we don’t like or binge watch “The Bachelorette” the night before our final exams, we are also tempted to just give into the empty political rhetoric we are exposed to everyday.

The difference is that in the case of the 2016 elections, the future of our country depends on whether we can resist this temptation. Thus, while we shouldn’t necessarily stop sleeping through our 8:20 classes on Friday mornings, we should make our very best effort to focus on the issues that matter in our political elections.

Roge Karma is president of BridgeND, a bipartisan student political organization that brings together Democrats, Republicans and all those in between to discuss public policy issues of national importance. They meet Tuesday nights from 89 p.m. in the McNeil room of LaFortune Student Center. They can be reached at bridgend@nd.edu or by following them on Twitter @bridge_ND

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About BridgeND

BridgeND is a bipartisan student political organization that brings together Democrats, Republicans, and all those in between to discuss public policy issues of national importance. They meet Tuesday nights (starting Sept.8) from 8-9pm in the McNeil room of LaFortune. They can be reached at bridgend@nd.edu or by following them on Twitter @bridge_ND

Contact Bridge