President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s comments on Big Bird have become symbolic of their political differences.
For years, PBS has been seen as a network that does good; one that had not been overtaken by the gritty partisan divide or corrupted by the corporate influence of commercialism.
When Gov. Romney said, “”I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I actually like you too,” people watching felt a pinch of hurt.
Many of us grew up watching programs like Sesame Street, Romper Room and Mr. Rogers. Now as adults, we enjoy the documentaries and unbiased news coverage. Certainly, no one could argue that the PBS Network is not an American gem. So how is it that Gov. Romney could seem to direct such a frontal attack to this national treasure?
President Obama referred to Big Bird in a stump speech two days after the debate by saying, “But he’s going to bring the hammer down on Sesame Street.” The president said this in an effort to persuade us to join him in the defense of the network by portraying himself as the good guy and conversely implying that Mitt Romney is the bad guy.
But manipulations of opponent’s words are nothing new to campaigns. During campaign seasons, candidates attempt to demonstrate differences between them and their opponents by touching nerves in the electorate to gain advantage in the race for the vote. In this instance, Big Bird has become the symbol of what each presidential candidate is defending. And to best ascertain where we stand, we need to truly understand not who Big Bird is, but what he represents.
The symbolic Big Bird
To Team Obama, Big Bird is symbolic of the contributions that big government brings to its citizens in their every days lives; healthcare, social security and education. These are the same commodities that citizens in Spain and Greece are fighting desperately to maintain.
To Team Romney, Big Bird is symbolic of the hard, but necessary, choices we must make to ensure that the country has the ability to survive the current economic crisis. He said, “I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.” Parents who have to adjust their budgets at home and cut things that they are accustomed to enjoying, are also seen as heartless foes to their children who would rather continue to spend money aimlessly.
In essence, the contrast between what both presidential candidates are proposing could not be any clearer. Team Obama wants to project an image that is popular among his base and continue the status quo at the expense of our economic future—charging the credit card and passing the burden to tomorrow. Gov. Romney is taking the high road and telling us we have to rip the Band-Aid off and fix the problem now, which certainly brings angst to the population at large.
Big Bird, or in this case the Public Broadcasting Service and subsidiaries, along with many other government programs would not go away. They might be reconfigured or modified, but they, like Gloria Gaynor, will survive. Just like many of the government services we have become accustomed to enjoying, we must learn to live with new limitations or else we will see the unemployment statistics grow.