Last week, I spent the better part of a weekday evening watching the Republic debate on CNN. Moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper, the event was the most watched show ever to air on the news network, with approximately 23 million tuning in to watch the candidates go tête à tête.
One of the questions really struck a chord with me and with all the other political and culture blogs out there. When asked which woman they would put on the $10 bill, the candidates seemed at a loss for any women, let alone an American one. Jeb Bush named Margaret Thatcher, who was Britain’s first female Prime Minister. Dr. Ben Carson named his mother. Mike Huckabee named his wife. Ohio’s governor, John Kasich, named Mother Teresa…who is definitely an icon, but not an American one. Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Ted Cruz and Donald Trump all named Rosa Parks, but conveniently forgot that she was a huge advocate for Planned Parenthood in her later life, an organization that they’d all like to defund.
The answers really, really sucked, and I started to realize how much the GOP is lacking in cultural knowledge and awareness. The discussion of who to put on the $10 bill has been going on since this spring! I’ve heard some great suggestions, from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Day O’Connor, from Oprah to Beyoncé. For candidates to have pop culture savvy is crucial if they want to win, and even more important if they want their supporters to stay engaged. But is it fair to expect our politicians to stay up-to-date on popular culture?