By Michael Cote, Journalism 101
Pretty Playful Politics
Time Magazine released an article last month titled “2015: The Year Adults Gave Up.” The article was a humor entry, but reflected a high degree of realism. In it they claim that this year, parents gave up trying to control their kids instead joining them on social media and following the same trends. Attendance for city council meetings and other administrative events are also at an all-time low, multiple states have joined a “pot revival” movement, and shock-factor figures, such as Caitlyn Jenner, who last year took Glamour’s “Women of the Year” award, have risen to prominence. The article does a good job of backing up it’s headline, and its observations are certainly funny. There is one place though, where I wish adults hadn’t given up: government and politics.
See, I believe there was a time when most citizens would cast their votes based solely on a candidate’s planned course of action, his past history and experience, and perceived capability to handle the tasks required from their government jobs. Maybe this started to change in the 60’s, after Kennedy and Nixon’s held the first televised presidential debate. At this point, stage presence and looks started to matter more, while the written word, rhetoric, and oratory skills started to matter less.
Today’s political stage, in particular the presidential race, reflects a souped-up version of this trend. On campus, at work and among my friends, I constantly hear the question asked in wonderment: “How is it that we ended up with THESE TWO candidates?” My theory is that our current world is over-saturated with data. Ads pervade our TV and email inbox. There’s always a never ending Facebook and Instagram feed. Even grassroots media outlets supply us with countless 30-second “news” bits. There is simply too much content for the average Joe to go through in a day, and because of this, current populace tends to gravitate to the more shocking and controversial subjects climbing to the top of their news feed. Enter Donald Trump: with the openly controversial statements that edge on bigotry and misogyny, the unruly behavior, and a conceitedness approaching levels of ridiculousness. His character is certainly shocking and entertaining to watch. Both he and Hillary Clinton have one thing in common that is immensely important in our data-saturated world: Name recognition.
- And part of me wants to say: “ARE YOU F***ING KIDDING ME”. These attributes—to be controversial, shocking, and entertaining to watch—are requisites needed for a good reality show. They should not be the requisites of a presidential candidate. I don’t know how we would go about changing this trend, but here are a few tips to keep in mind as the final presidential debate takes place.
- Try to concentrate on their actual ideas and statements, rather than their one-liner zingers and the level of their voice. Try to read the debates as you would an essay: consider the level of validness to their arguments, the fillers they put into their speeches, and their underlying thesis statement.
- Fact-Check the candidates: What good is a thesis statement if it’s completely false? Organizations such as Politifact, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, rate the validity of candidates’ claims, and cite the sources they used to reach such a conclusion. In a Mid-Year Fact Check disclosure, Politifact rated all of Trump’s statements to be 60.13% FALSE. Hillary had a rating of 13.33%.
- Check their track record: political candidates tend to leave a public breadcrumb trail that reflects which causes and demographics they favor. These are usually in the form of past speeches and legislative decisions. If someone states they are pro-education, don’t just take their word for it—look at how they have voted on these issues in the past: have they cut, or raised funding for education? What about trade and international affairs? Have they displayed peaceful or militant tendencies? Former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders was wildly popular with his supporters, largely because his party platform was in-line with the same causes he’d been fighting for since the 1960’s.
- And for the love of god, don’t vote for vanity. Try to make a choice for yourself. Do your research. Try to foresee how this candidate can handle civil rights issues, and affect our economy, climate, and international relations. Study up. And if you don’t, don’t vote for the person at the top of your news feed. Just don’t vote at all.
Note: Don’t forget that today, Monday October 24 is the LAST DAY TO REGISTER TO VOTE. Harbor College has a table set up near the Student Center where you are able to register.