A Woman, an African American, and a Mormon: How Natural Differences are Shaping the GOP Race

November 20, 2011

Political action, Political Theory


As the 2012 race for the Republican presidential nomination heats up, it is unbelievably apparent that natural differences are playing a large role in determining who will represent the party and face off against current Democratic President Barack Obama.  Sex, race, and religion will without a doubt play large factors in the primary races which begin January 3rd in Iowa.  The American public has become fascinated with being a part of something special and witnessing landmark political events.  The election of the first African American president made the people of the United States think bigger and more idealistic, and soon the possibilities of the first woman president, the first Mormon president, and the first election of two African Americans became very realistic.  Now, as the 2012 Republican race features a woman (Michelle Bachman), an African American (Herman Cain), and a Mormon (Mitt Romney), natural differences are playing a large role in influencing society’s and media views on the upcoming election.

Cain, Bachman, and Romney are all trying to break barriers and become the next president of the United States

While the upcoming election approaches quickly, the drama revolving around the Republican nomination is heating up and these candidates are giving valiant efforts trying to convince the nation that they deserve to lead our country.  Early on in the summer of 2011, Michelle Bachman, attempting to become the United States’ first woman president, led in the polls.  More recent polls, however, have shown that it is pretty unlikely that the congresswoman will get the nomination, and the Republicans will likely go with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, or business executive and wannabe gospel singer Herman Cain.

My reasons for writing this blog post and the upcoming election’s relationship with political theory, however, has little to do with who will win or who is leading the polls.  This year’s selection of Republican candidates is incredibly diverse and broad, ranging from a woman to an African American to a Mormon.  The amount of speculation and consideration the media gives to these natural differences is immense, but a simple question must be asked: are these differences important?  If they are, why?  If you judge importance by media attention, then these natural differences are indeed important.  The media makes out these issues, such as a possible first woman or first Mormon president or the possibility of two African American candidates facing off, as incredibly important, but where does this importance come from?

The ideas of Rousseau give an interesting perspective on the 2012 US presidential election

In Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality, he breaks inequalities into natural and ethical inequalities.  These natural inequalities that Rousseau discusses in his discourse could be thought of as natural differences.  Rousseau believes that these natural differences are a product of nature, such as gender, religion, race, or ethnicity; however, he is more concerned with ethical inequalities as he believes that these are the inequalities that affect civil society.  According to Rousseau, in a state of nature, natural differences have no true influence on people, and that it is society that causes the apparent inequalities caused by natural differences.  So, does Rousseau prove that media is implanting false importance on these issues?  While Rousseau would consider these issues as relatively unimportant, the vast majority of American citizens would disagree with him, but why is that?

United States citizens have always shown deep interest in issues revolving around these natural differences; for example, when Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, there was massive nation-wide celebration as the American people cheered for the first African American president.  While Rousseau may have said that this feat would be trivial, most Americans considered the election of Obama to be a landmark day in US history, and with the history of African American discrimination in the United States, it is hard to deny that.

With the immense media scrutiny and societal importance on natural differences, do you consider these differences to be important, especially when considering events like the upcoming GOP primary election?  Moreover, do you think the media should strive to focus less on the outcomes surrounding natural differences, so society in general may put less importance on these differences?

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2 Comments on “A Woman, an African American, and a Mormon: How Natural Differences are Shaping the GOP Race”

  1. ianbaker2041 Says:

    I really like this blog post. It’s about something that I have thought about quite a bit. I am fiscally conservative (not to be confused with being a Republican), so I tend to support Republicans; as such, I care a great deal about who wins the nomination. I’ll mostly talk about religion here, as that strikes me as the most central issue.

    I don’t consider myself to be of any religion. I’ve basically created my own world view along the lines of deism. Because I would not consider myself “Christian” any more than any other religion, it makes no difference to me that Romney is a Mormon. I disagree with his socially conservative position, and that is at least partially by virtue of his religion, but that doesn’t matter to me. I see his religion manifesting itself as a political position, and I’ll consider him as a candidate as such. His opposition to gay rights is linked to his religion, for example, but for my purposes, it is just a political position. The same principle goes for the other candidates. Even though I’m a white male, I don’t care if a woman or a black person leads America. Whoever can do the job best will get my vote, regardless of religion, race, or gender.

    Do I think these issues are important for America as a whole? Absolutely yes, religion in particular. As I said, religion does not matter much to me for the purpose of American politics because I don’t consider myself Christian, but as most Americans are, it should matter for the rest of the country. If you think about it, separation of church and state is something of a myth; take gay rights, for example. There is absolutely no legal reason at all to oppose gay rights; in fact, our Constitution calls for equality for everyone and makes no exclusion based on sexual orientation. The fact that almost all Americans are Christian, however, means that gay marriage is not recognized. Why? Christianity claims to have a moral opposition to homosexuality. That’s not to say that every single Christian opposes gay rights, but devout Christians have historically opposed it.This case shows how church and state are not really as separate in the US as some people like to think; I for one am under no illusion about the real power of religion in America. Since church and state remain linked in America, Christians in particular should care about the religion of their leaders, and I think this is where the media has hit a key nerve with the populace in making an issue out of Romney’s religion.

    America has yet to have a non-Christian president. Why? Because religion matters to most people. Although he will probably win the Republican nomination with relative ease, he’ll fight an uphill battle against Obama partially because he is Mormon. Is that bad? Perhaps, but given how many Americans are Christian and have self-interest in making sure that a Christian remains president, it seems only to fall in line with our democratic foundations for the voters to care about religion and elect fellow Christians. I don’t think that church and state have ever been truly separated, and it’s unlikely they ever will. I can accept that most of America is Christian and cares about this issue even if it doesn’t matter much to me.

  2. madelinedunn Says:

    Your post touched on the idea that the media can actually influence elections. This is an idea that has been researched. If you take a look at these slides from my COMM 101 class, you will see some graphs that show the percent of good and bad news coverage each candidate receives.
    https://ctools.umich.edu/access/content/group/6e764b21-6bed-4c66-a726-39c31fedeaa4/Slides%20_print%20and%20bring%20to%20lecture_/20%20the%20news%202%20tetraptych.pdf
    Candidate two in the graphs on slides three and four is our current president Barack Obama. These numbers show that lately Obama has been receiving a lot of negative news coverage compared to candidate number one. This is probably due to the fact that candidate one is getting to know the public, talking about his family and what he is going to fight for. The country is already pretty familiar with Barack’s family life as well as where his personal values fall. Because of this, the coverage is not going to be as peppy when Obama is featured in the media.
    If you read further on in the slides provided, you will see that one’s power is measured by how much they appear in the media. It is scary to think that the media, who we do not elect, can have so much control over the way our government functions. There was a case during the rise of the news where media tycoon Randolph Hearst showed America just how influential the media can be. (go here for article)
    https://ctools.umich.edu/access/content/group/6e764b21-6bed-4c66-a726-39c31fedeaa4/Readings/Sterin258.pdf
    His actions helped lead us into the Spanish American war. He manipulated the messages of what was really happening in the world and used his near-monopoly over the media outlets to influence both citizens and government officials alike.
    Luckily, there are now more media outlets available for citizens to watch and we should not have to experience any more trauma, at least to the extent of entering a war, caused by a monopoly of sources. With that said, the media still have the ability to influence elections by depicting the candidates in a certain light on screen, in magazines and in newspapers.

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