MAGAZINE: McWhirter to bring ‘efficiency’ to 2012 Presidential Elections

Amanda Seale

From The Bark magazine, Fall 2011 Bearden students are already picking favorites for the upcoming 2012 election, and for many, their views can be summed up in two words: McWhirter 2012. A campaign has started at Bearden in attempt to convince people that AP Government, Economics, and Comparative Politics teacher Mr. Matt McWhirter deserves to be elected President in 2012. In early September, a Facebook page was created in honor of the 6-foot-5 teacher. From the start, students’ intention was clear: to see Mr. McWhirter on Tennessee’s ballot for President. “The idea of him as president has been brought up before,” says senior Kevin Hoang, creator of the group, “but the Facebook group helped us organize and get together.” Every Thursday during early release, a group of students meet to coordinate campaign efforts. Since the group involves politics, McWhirter 2012 can’t become an official sponsored Bearden High School club. Nevertheless, students get together to make sure they are following all campaign laws and that they are getting Mr. McWhirter’s name out to the public. “We are in the process of creating websites,” co-president Temple Duke says. Mr. McWhirter, though he did not start this campaign, supports it. “For some, [the Facebook page] is for the comedy experience, which is great, because laughter really is the best medicine,” Mr. McWhirter says. “Some people, however, are using it as an opportunity to do some kind of research into the political process and learn how to campaign and the election process as a whole. “It’s perhaps the best learning experience I’ve seen students have.” The McWhirter 2012 campaign has rolled over into his classes as well. After some of Mr. McWhirter’s long-winded arguments about how to improve the economy, students have at times started clapping or spontaneously exclaimed, “McWhirter 2012!” “We want to get Mr. McWhirter on the 2012 presidential ballot in Tennessee and as many other sates possible,” Duke says. If he does run, Mr. McWhirter will not run as a Democrat or Republican, but as an Independent. “As an Independent, he would have less political pressure to conform to one side or the other,” senior Annie Getz says. The most impressive goal of the group, however, is campaigning without any money. “One of the first things I said when I found out people were serious about this was, ‘I don’t want any money involved,’” Mr. McWhirter says. “And that is such a profound challenge given the realities of modern day politics.” Students are mainly relying on social media and word of mouth to promote their teacher’s political debut. The Facebook page has become popular, now with 76 members, and T-shirts are also in the making for the McWhirter 2012 campaign. The design features a picture of Mr. McWhirter on the front with the word “Efficiency” underneath. Mr. McWhirter’s students aren’t strangers to the word “efficiency” being used in his class. For the McWhirter 2012 campaign, this catch phrase is the equivalent to President Barack Obama’s “Yes, We Can.” “Since we’re trying to do this without spending any money, obviously, efficiency is the key,” Mr. McWhirter says. On the whole, the campaign isn’t just about electing Mr. McWhirter as president. “We are trying to make a statement,” Duke says. “Can a group of students put a ‘nobody’ on the ballot despite the absence of money and through the power of social media? “Mr. McWhirter always emphasizes that this campaign is not about him, but about us.” What is the best reason, though, that Mr. McWhirter should be president? “Because I would be the only candidate that does not have money influencing my views,” Mr. McWhirter says. “And I think that’s important because there would be no question about if my views are based on the amount of money I got from somebody, because I won’t be getting any money from anybody.” So who should voters look to for an untainted and unbiased candidate? According to a growing number of Bearden students, it’s McWhirter 2012. Amanda Seale is a staff writer for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK, and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.