Candidates prepare for months, sometimes years, to get ready. They give interviews in front of huge crowds of people to gain support. Intense focus is allocated for raising money through sponsors to pay for supplies for the long journey ahead. Entire staffs of people dedicate themselves to image control and maintenance: all outfits are picked out, every hair is in place and more time is spent on grooming than ever before. The competitors go against each other until, one by one, they’re forced out. Eventually, only one winner will survive.
No, I’m not talking about the movie with the biggest opening weekend for a non-sequel, The Hunger Games. The seemingly post-apocalyptic future described above is actually a depiction of what’s going on in this year’s Republican presidential primary race. The original field of nine — Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney — has narrowed itself down to three contenders. Really it’s more like two because who still thinks Gingrich has a chance?
As soon as things got bloody at the Cornucopia, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump were some of the first to go. They spent too much time slinging barbs at everyone else and not enough enough time gaining supporters. Pawlenty is another one that was ousted early, much like the girl in the woods minding her own business that was killed by the Careers.
And then, there was one candidate that somehow seemed less clownish than the others, Huntsman. He came in with experience. He didn’t spend time going negative with attack ads. He seemed rational and was the great hope of the entire race. His loss in New Hampshire felt like watching the beloved Rue get stabbed in the chest with a spear all over again.
Bachmann is a good representation of the crazy girl with the knives in The Hunger Games that no one was sad to see leave. Cain was taken out by some tracker jackers — women he allegedly sexually harassed that swarmed and fought back from his past. Perry seemed like he had a good shot for awhile, but was eventually his own worst enemy and poisoned himself, like the berries that killed Foxface, with his constant missteps and blunders.
Paul is an iconoclast and distances himself from the rest, like Thresh’s technique to hide in the wheat field. Also, like Thresh, Paul has strength in his group of ardent supporters; however, it’s not enough to win the election. Gingrich then becomes Cato in this story. Just like Cato, he attacks all opponents and tries to bully his way to the top. Fortunately for all of us, we know the demons from his past, or muttations, will make sure he doesn’t make it much further.
And then we’re left with Romney and Santorum, or Peeta and Katniss. Romney, like Katniss, is the clear stronger candidate left. And just like Peeta and Katniss, can we really trust anything either one says? Or do they only say what they think will keep them alive longer in this Hunger Games style primary race? It’s for this reason that Santorum has made anti-college statements, even though when he was a Senator in 2006 he called for all Pennsylvania citizens to have access to higher education. It’s why Romney derides “Obamacare,” but instituted universal healthcare in Massachusetts, or Romneycare first. Both candidates say whatever they think will get them the most support at the time, and it’s unclear what either one actually believes.
So no matter who’s left at the end, does anyone really win? Or will the candidate be forever haunted by the transformation he underwent to survive this process? And what about the rest of us? Will we elect a hero or someone who can’t keep it together when things get tough like Katniss?
And if this is what the race for President has come down to, are we any better than the people of Panem that tune in to watch the Hunger Games every year rather than doing something to demand change?
Taylor is a Plan II and rhetoric and writing senior.