What If They Had To Stand On Their Own?
What would this year’s presidential election be like if the only thing the media was allowed to do is provide actual quotations from the candidates? No analysis. No commentary. No polls. Nothing said on TV or on the web that isn’t an exact quote from a candidate. Wouldn’t that be interesting!
Sorry if this sounds cynical, but I believe most people’s opinions of a candidate are based on someone else’s opinion, not their own. Maybe it’s whatever the FOX people are saying, or the CNNs or the MSNBCs. Or perhaps it’s the latest rants of their favorite celebrities. And if it were simply other people’s opinions about the candidates, even that wouldn’t be so bad as following other people’s opinions about the polls of other people’s opinions.
Why do I think Romney is going to win this election? It’s not because he can fix the economy. No president can do that. It’s not because of his stance on health care, social security, taxes, Israel, Syria, abortion, gay marriage, or traffic. It’s because in the last few weeks of the campaign, Romney is “trending.” The media reports on the polls which say Romney is gaining. People hop on the bus. It just snowballs from there.
And none of it has to do with policy. People say they care about policy, but they don’t. They care about what their friends and coworkers think of them. They care about who looks good on TV. They care about anything except policy, substance, simply because the real issues are complicated and flat-out too hard to understand. How many American’s can actually tell you what the national debt is or means? How many can cite the actual details of Obama’s healthcare program? How many can actually define the phrase “middle class”? And how many can find Syria on a map?
Until recently I never put a bumper sticker on my car. About six months ago I saw one I simply had to have. It says, “Is That What They Told You To Think?” Frankly, I don’t care what anyone’s stance on issues is, unless of course it’s simply offensive; I just care that they probably haven’t figured it out for themselves. They bought it off the rack. And the schlock merchants are the media on every side.
Here’s the thing. If you can’t think an issue through yourself based on the available facts and information, you look to the media who appear to be most sincere and generally in line with your overall world view. They can sell you anything. And they do it not with lies, but with selective information. Some things get reported and some don’t. Some panel moderators clearly lean this way or that, and panelists are carefully selected.
That’s why I’d like to see a presidential election where everyone had to make up their mind based on primary sources only. Then the candidates would have to really sound and look good. No hiding behind a PAC or a network or a big red and blue chart on the wall. There’s a presidential debate tonight. It will last for however long it lasts. And then we will get analysis for days. I will have formed an opinion of the candidates based mostly on who actually answered which questions and who simply evaded them. And then I may shut off the TV and not turn it on again until after the election – except to watch Walking Dead, of course, where the zombies don’t try to be anything but zombies.