With the GOP primaries approaching, the Republicans have presented an array of politicians, with a revolving cast of front-runners. Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts has remained at the top throughout, but, until recently, the identity of his main challenger was a volatile matter. At one point, as many have probably already forgotten, it was Donald Trump attracting voters, who believed he could sell his gold-plated hair to pay off the national debt. How he managed to fall out of the race is a mystery to me -- "you're fired" seemed like a bulletproof plan to fix the unemployment crisis.
After Trump dropped out, a stream of politicians came and went as favorites, including the likes of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and the ever-charismatic Tim Pawlenty. Now it seems that the GOP (or at least the media) has finally settled on Texas Governor Rick Perry as Romney's main rival in the primary race.
Rick Perry burst into the race late, and his rugged, Texan manliness drew immediate attention from the media and GOP voters (he claimed to have killed a cougar with a laser sited pistol because it tried to attack his dog during his morning jog). Governor "Yosemite Sam" soon climbed to the top, earning one of the center spots on the stage (along with Romney) for the September 7 debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. During the debate, such bold statements as "I hate cancer" assured the audience that he would not be afraid to shoot serious issues, like cancer, in the face with a laser-sighted pistol, if they were to attack the American people (or any household pet for that matter).
What really scared me, however, was not Perry's Hollywood gunslinger act, but his ambition to wage war on the young. First, Perry committed himself to his position that social security is "a Ponzi scheme" that needs to come to an end -- but only for young people. He said to people of his generation, or those headed in the direction of receiving social security benefits, that they could keep their benefits. Older voters have nothing to worry about; he proposes to end it for young people only, or "transition" away from it, to something resembling independent retirement accounts. Yes, why don't we keep social security for the middle-aged and elderly, who make up a larger percentage of voters than people under 30? Among those whom Perry proposes to screw over are, of course, all of us under 18 (and those not even born yet). But who cares, we can't vote anyway, right?
With an Orwellian twist, Perry and the others who pledge to end social security attempt to make themselves out as heroes to the young. They said things like, 'They need to hear the truth' (Perry) and 'I would like to allow all of the young people to get out of social security and go on their own' (Ron Paul). As if social security is a burden holding us down? They are trying to say that politicians need to stop lying to the young and tell us straight: that we will not receive social security benefits. Basically, this means: let's tell them that we are going to screw them over... and then screw them over.
The social security conversation continued on the September 12 Tea Party Debate, during which Michele Bachmann seemed uncertain about the number of feet she has ("I'm a person that has had feet in the private sector and a foot in the federal government"), and Romney and Perry bickered like a married couple. At least Romney was defending social security, insisting that it had to be saved, not eliminated.
Perry is not the only one attacking the young, he just has been the most vocal (and provocative), particularly on the issue social security. Others, including Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann have the same basic views on social security, but use less radical language (they did not use the term "Ponzi scheme"). But Paul and Bachmann have no chance and therefore present no real danger. Perry is a front-runner.
And don't get the idea that the Right Wing's war on the young is only a matter of social security. Their attacks on education and global warming are just as dangerous to our generation. All of the Republican candidates, except Mitt Romney and John Huntsman, have talked all summer of abolishing or severely limiting the EPA, claiming that global warming is not sound science and that the EPA kills jobs. Well, who will be around when the most severe effects of pollution and global warming come? It will be our generation and those to come after us. Some candidates (e.g. Bachmann and Paul) have also attacked the Department of Education and government regulation of schools' curriculums. During the September 7 debate, Bachmann asserted that education is most effective when it is regulated by individual communities, rather than by the government.
Statements like these lead John Huntsman's concerns that the GOP is becoming the anti-science party. After all, when communities choose their own curriculum, issues of religion vs. science, such as evolution vs. creationism, come up. On September 12, Ron Paul said something like, 'We need to cut the Department of Education ... get rid of them completely' in response to a question about reducing government spending. And the audience erupted in applause! On what planet and in what country would cutting the Department of Education be something to cheer about? Just what we don't need now are further declines in education in this country! Unless, of course, the future we want is Rick Perry's future: an entire nation of uneducated, minimum-wage workers, just like Perry's job-creating "miracle" in Texas.
While the inanity of the Tea Party makes us laugh, the emergence of Rick Perry as a front-runner means that we have to stand up and get involved. Please listen carefully to the right wing's discussion of these issues and consider how they will affect our lives and our generation. Raise these issues in conversations at home, in your classrooms, and (if possible) with your local politicians. We can't let the old crabs and cheapskates win their war against the young!