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Perhaps she is just insane


Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Sheila Bapat

By Sheila Bapat
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
October 4, 1999

One of the main lessons taught in Politics 101 must be: when all else fails, be an extremist. Extremism works for politicians - even the insignificant ones.

Arizona Representative Jean McGrath has clearly mastered this art. At a recent Arizona Board of Regents meeting, the Glendale Republican said the following: "I cannot understand why a public university would want to have a co-ed dormitory - it's just beyond me."

McGrath, clearly a leader of Planet Right Wing, went on to say that co-ed dormitories contribute to teenage pregnancies, welfare and basic immorality. She scolded universities for offering women's studies courses that discuss lesbianism. She criticized an instructor who made class readings available at Antigone Books, because the store allegedly caters to homosexuals and minority groups.

Unfortunately for McGrath, idiotic statements tend to go down in history. Her words graced the front page of the Arizona Republic. Radio shows poked fun at her.

And I, too, have now jumped on the bandwagon by addressing such nonsense.

We all know that relating co-ed dorms to any of the above issues is ludicrous. But the more interesting issue is why she would say this. McGrath must have known the uproar that her remarks would cause.

Perhaps she said this because the rest of her agenda, which focuses on legitimate university funding issues, is less likely to ever make headlines. By making herself known, even through making such ridiculous comments, she is somehow hoping to draw attention to her stance on other issues.

Or perhaps she is just insane.

Either way, it is a shame that her comments overshadowed all of the other issues of importance that were discussed at the regents meeting, like the fact that teachers may receive salary increases and the UA may receive additional funds for construction projects.

When a little-known politician goes off the deep end and causes an uproar, issues that matter tend to slide to the back burner. It is a Pat Buchananesque trend that feeds the fire of the extreme segments of parties.

And it happens at all levels of politics. Presidential hopeful and morality pusher Gary Bauer, who has based his entire agenda around an issue government shouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole - abortion - is forcing issues that need true attention to the back burner. And just like McGrath, he is getting attention for his extremism. He has no shot of actually having a significant political career, but he is getting attention.

Politics is essentially sophisticated bullying. When you find the best way to rumble your way to the front of the camera and to the top of opinion polls you stick with it - even if the issues you discuss do no good.

McGrath, however, will not be at the top of any opinion polls and is already taking hits for her comments.

"Jean McGrath's views do not represent a majority of the Senate," said Tucson Democrat George Cunningham. "Those comments were so outrageous that they attract negative attention."

McGrath also received a slew of e-mails from outraged students who called her, among other things, a flaming extremist.

If any of the outraged students were asked what else was discussed at the meeting, few if any would know that the UA requested $18 million for building projects and is only receiving $7 million.

Extremism is a strategy that does not help individual candidates. It merely feeds the fire of ideologies, like that of the far-right and helps them at least have a voice. It also, unfortunately, forces the public to focus on issues that don't really matter.

If her intention is to detract from real issues, McGrath is succeeding. If her intention is to get re-elected, she is failing miserably.

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