Friday, April 25, 2008

Losers in the campaign? Voters

It's a sure-fire recipe for dumbing down the quadrennial race for the White House. Presidential candidates try to create memorable (but not embarrassing) sound bites and television networks cover the campaign like a who's-out-front horse race.

Fluff, it might be said, wins over stuff.

Rarely in its history has the United States faced more daunting and demanding crises, and never before has the nation needed a leader with the intellectual and moral fortitude to rehabilitate a nation in a critically diminished condition. Yet, a principal source of information on which voters must base their election decisions in November—television—has virtually trivialized its coverage with "issues" known more for their incendiary quality than intellectual texture.

Is Hillary Clinton being picked on? Did Barack Obama make an obscene gesture at Hillary when he scratched his nose? Is John McCain's wife's personal wealth really $100 million? Photo ops of bowling, tossing back a shot of whisky. Arguments about flag lapel pins.

Rather than platitudes, what will the candidates do about the hemorrhaging of U.S. jobs overseas? How will they restore America's financial prudence and end its status as the world's largest debtor? Will they end the Bush-Cheney years of indifference to the environment, to civil liberties, to congressional oversight and to ending a war opposed by the public?

Television has made the campaign entertaining. However, if candidates have gone into any great detail of their plans for solving real problems, TV has marginalized them. TV might be surprised to learn that not all voters rely on an eight-second sound bite to make a decision.

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