Republican division: Romney and Perry fight it out at Las Vegas debate20-Oct-2011
Earlier this week, the seven Republican candidates for the 2012 US presidential elections took to the stage in the North American City of Sin to debate the merits of their own political aims, and those of their partisan rivals. However, while the aim of the debate was to persuade the electorate to vote for one Republican candidate over another, the party’s candidates may have inadvertently shot themselves in the foot due to their intra-party conflict and disagreement.
The debate essentially turned into a ‘he-said, she-said’ concerning abortion, immigration, and that notorious American tripping stone, healthcare. It very much resembled a children’s playground, with two of the strongest Republican candidates, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, talking over and interrupting each other, and essentially attacking each other’s Republicanism.
What stands out is that all of this conflict and argumentation demonstrates a rift within the Republican Party, which is usually united in its policies on such topics as abortion, healthcare, and immigration. What remains to be seen is whether this division will affect how the Republican voters will respond: will they still be able to find a candidate who they think is in line with their political wishes, or will they feel the party is losing its identity? Last year, in the general election in England, the Liberal Democrats, whose biggest draw for voters was their disdain for, and promise to abolish, university tuition fees, shocked and disappointed voters when they then increased fees to a whopping £9000 a year. One wonders if a similar feeling of discontent might occur if Romney was elected, and then u-turned on the typical Republican stance towards healthcare, as his opponents accused him of.
Hopefully, we’ll soon be able to analyse the impact of this Republican debate with some exit poll figures. In the meantime, why not use these features from the New York Times to incorporate the debate into your class? This video intercuts the more disastrous (and absurdly funny) parts of the debate with commentary by a political correspondent, while this associated article explains in more detail the deeper rifts between the individual candidates. You could use these two resources as traditional listening and reading comprehension, and there are plenty of lesson ideas on onestopenglish based on politics, including the aptly titled speaking lesson plan ‘Interrupting and disagreeing politely,’ by Simon Mumford. For a more productive exercise, ask students to prepare a five-point mandate for if they were president of a country. Distribute these to the other students in class, and ask them to prepare questions based on these aims. Finally, organise a vocal debate where students announce their political promises, and have to respond to questions asked by the other students, meaning everyone can practice their pronunciation and grammatical accuracy when announcing their aims, and can practise their fluency and improvisation when stumped by an opponent’s question!
Hopefully, your debates won’t turn out quite as childish as the one in Las Vegas!