The Laboratory of Democracy (a special series)

The United States’ Presidential Election 2008 is proving to be an excellent case study in the realm of “Think For Yourself, Schmuck”  I say that because, more than ever, the media has become pervasive and invasive in our daily lives.  I’m not just talking about the 24-hour Cable News cycles.  You also have to include the internet media, the blogs, the political forums, anyone with a little bandwidth and an opinion. 

 The daily drumbeat of this Presidential Election, has been polls, polls, polls.  Or I should say, that is part of it.  The other part has been this Reality-TV style coverage of every utterance, every breath, every movement each of the candidates have made.  Now, this might be okay, if it were on C-Span, where you have little commentary.  You just get to see what is happening and decide for yourself what’s going on and what it means.  But it isn’t C-Span.  It’s MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News, and all of the Internet “news” outlets.  So there is a barrage of “what’s really going on” messages. 

 “Oh my God!  Obama is a horrible bowler!!!!  If he can’t handle some 10-pin, how’s he going to handle Iran???”

Yes, I know that’s one of those trivial little things that happen on the campaign trail, and it doesn’t compare to more important “scandals” like Rev. Wright, bitter comments, phantom sniper fire, nut-job pastors endorsing candidates, and the like.  But the point is, at every turn someone is telling you how you should think about these things.  Or, if you are getting multiple scenarios, it’s typically an either/or paradigm. 

We’ve all heard how a candidate is all style and no substance, an empty suit.  That he or she is relying on soundbites and talking points.  But the thing of it is, the media who is telling us that is doing the same thing.  Their coverage is all about soundbites and talking points.  Save for the debates, how much actual coverage of actual policy proposals do we get?  And so this is why Joe Schmoe is so easily swayed by the talking heads, because he has little else to go upon.  And he certainly isn’t going to give up his nightly ritual of worshipping the boob-tube while swigging some PBR, to go do some actual research on the candidates. 

What does this mean for the future of U.S.A. Democracy(tm)? 

We will explore this next week….