Poor Big Bird.
The last thing he probably wanted was a mention in the first political debate between President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. But that’s exactly what happened to the lovable eight-foot, two-inch feathery fellow Wednesday night.
Romney told moderator Jim Lehrer, “I’m sorry Jim. I’m gonna stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m gonna stop other things. I like PBS, I like Big Bird, I actually like you too.”
A collective stab pierced the heart of Generation X who grew up with Big Bird, Bert and Ernie and Oscar the Grouch as their best friends. I immediately thought, “Oh no, Big Bird will be unemployed if Romney wins.” I wasn’t alone.
As is normal these days, Big Bird started trending on Twitter. Memes magically appeared on Facebook showing Big Bird sitting on a stoop holding a sign “Will Work For Food.” But what we really needed at that moment was Count von Count appearing at the debate to explain Obama and Romney’s monologues about complex taxes and percentages.
Obama was not his best Wednesday night, but he could leverage Big Bird. That is if the Obama campaign is smart. A survey in 2008 noted that 77 million Americans had watched “Sesame Street” as children. That’s a lot of potential voters to woo. Nostalgia runs deep, trust me.
Big Bird, an iconic image, could serve as a bright yellow reminder that the Romney administration is keen on deep cuts to beloved institutions.
In August, Romney said he would eliminate funding for PBS, Amtrak, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS’s parent organization, receives $444 million a year from the government.
Maybe Romney doesn’t understand how vital PBS, which celebrates its 42nd anniversary on Friday, is for many Americans. For several years, polls have regularly placed PBS as America’s most-trusted national institution. Before the invention of cable television, PBS offered diversity when only three networks — ABC, NBC and CBS — dominated the airwaves. Educating America’s children with smart programming has remained a dutiful promise of the network.