By Kyle Sepe
Elm Staff Writer

What is the number one issue in the 2012 U.S. presidential election?

Is it Rick Santorum’s “extremism?” The Catholic Church? Or the law school student that managed to party in California with her boyfriend for spring break, but couldn’t afford contraception?

Secondary issues continue to provoke politicians and voters. Some wonder why these topics are incorporated into this year’s presidential election in conjunction with an absence of primary issues like the failing economy. It seems as though both Republicans and Democrats are getting sidetracked with issues such as contraception.

The media is highlighting the Sandra Fluke contraception issue, which contradicts Rick Santorum’s beliefs on abstinence. When discussions turn to the economy, jobs, and our healthcare future, contraception springs into the picture in an attempt to demonize Conservatives such as Rick Santorum, as he is perceived to be “extreme.” It is disappointing to see conservative ideas portrayed as radical and dismissed without an attempt to understand them. Besides, what’s wrong with abstinence?

When Conservatives say they are for a working America, not an entitlement society, they are accused of not caring for the poor. If they say they are against continued stimulus, want a reduction in government spending, and push for a balanced budget agreement, they are accused of being anti-jobs. If they are pro-life, they are accused of being misogynists. This inaccurate portrayal of Conservatives is creating a divisive nation that diverts attention from primary issues and rational solutions.

Sidetracking also transpired just a few weeks ago when a columnist for “The Huffington Post” called Rick Santorum a “Jesus-eater” and Pope Benedict XVI a “former Nazi” while Bill Maher and David Letterman used female slurs to describe Sarah Palin. Where does the line have to be drawn? I guess some are exempt from derogatory lexis but Rush Limbaugh (a Conservative who hosts the most listened to radio show in America) is not.

President Barack Obama is being sidetracked as well with fundraising events. According to Mark Knoller, a CBS News correspondent for the White House press, the president has attended over 108 events since filing for his candidacy last April. That’s double the events President George W. Bush attended in 2004 at this same point in the race. If Democrats prefer that their candidate focus on fundraising rather than securing Medicare and actually lowering the unemployment rate below eight percent, then nothing is preventing them from voting for President Obama again.

Nevertheless, people deviate from the “big issues” and positively credit President Obama for “turning around the economy.” According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is currently 8.3 percent as opposed to 7.8 percent when Obama took office in Jan. 2009. It has not been slashed in half like Obama promised in 2008. Also, gas prices have more than doubled since 2009. What exactly does fundraising do to lower gas prices? Could sidetracking be a problem? I guess if $4 or $5 gasoline at the pumps is what Obama supporters want then nothing is preventing them from voting for him again.

So when President Obama articulates how well his policies have been working, voters should ask themselves the following questions: Does it cost less to fill the gas tank than it did four years ago? Is healthcare more affordable than it was four years ago? Is finding a job in your field easier now than it was four years ago? But most importantly, do you feel more in control of your financial future than you did four years ago?
If you answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions, then how you will vote this November is obvious and the cogent “hope and change” rhetoric may be sidetracking your reality. However, if you answered ‘no,’ there is always another choice.

Therefore, it’s time for real hope and change in 2012.

The Elm

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