To put it mildly I am rather disgruntled over how the 2008 presidential election is shaping up, or rather falling apart to be more accurate. My annoyance is not the fact that the guy I think would be the best influence in the presidency (Ron Paul) probably won't win. It has to do with that, but the issues are more why this is the case, and how we know who will win at all. In large measure I blame the news media, I honestly think the way elections are covered by nearly all news networks and news outlets is destroying Democracy. I will why explain in this post.
1. The Horse Race Coverage, or "The Polls Show..."
How many times within the past 6 months when one listens to talk radio, reads news, or watches network news have the omniscient "Polls show Guilliani is leading by X points..." or "The latest polls are showing..." talk been used? I have one simple question in regard to this "polls" talk, HOW DOES THAT HELP DEMOCRACY IN ANY WAY?
I can't think of a single positive effect "polls show..." has on voters. Invoking the "polls" seems only to have negative effects by dictating to the public who is the winner before they vote, thus it is really encouraging turning a deaf ear to the "2nd Tier candidates" they don't have a chance so who cares.
This attitude not only is fostered in the public but in the media itself. On Sunday I saw that Tim Russert had a "Open invitation to all the presidential candidates of both parties to come on 'Meet the Press'" I saw that he had Guilliani and Romney coming in the future and wondered whether Ron Paul was coming up as well, or perhaps had already been on. Well unfortunately, The 'Meet The Press' invite isn't as open as one is led to believe. The invite is only for the serious candidates, apparently Paul doesn't qualify as such.
How is such a conclusion reached? Not a serious candidate? The guys out there campaigning every day and is at all the debates what do you mean he's not serious? Well here again comes the "given the polls..." Thus, given the polls the media is justified to intentionally neglect to talk about certain candidates, and thus the public doesn't even know about them.
2. Best Chance to Win
This ties into the previous point about the polls, but one of the major focuses I see in the media is upon which candidate has the "Best chance to win", never mind their policies, ethics, voting record or even competency, "Guilliani can beat Hillary" and that seems to be enough for us to rally around him, so says Sean Hannity. Hannity has been pleading with Christians to overlook the rather blatant moral backwardness of Guilliani and rally behind him or else the Republicans will lose the White House.
Well, I am sorry but as a Christian my political rationale shouldn't be vote for the guy who has the best shot to keep the Libs out of the White house, that is ridiculous. In thinking such way the media encourages us not to vote for a candidate but against the Democrats and their candidate. This hurts democracy.
3. The Focus On Inconsequentials
I can vividly recall a talk radio personality comparing Guilliani's wife to Fred Thompson's as who was hotter and how that effects voting. I have seen similar things on the networks as well. Not only the wives appearance but also the candidates themselves. "Romney just looks like a president" is a phrase I have heard several times.
In the case of this election we also have the gender and even race factors constantly coming up. "It is about time for a women president." Or "We still haven't had a black president perhaps Barack is the guy." While all these issues may seem novel they really are cancerous to a healthy democracy. If you are voting for someone because of how hot their wife is, what sex they are, because their last name is Clinton, or because they have brown skin I frankly don't think your vote should count. Perhaps as a 1/3 vote because you still are a citizen and no matter how empty your opinion may be it should be listened to election day.
My point, simply is that the media fosters these superficial evaluations of candidates. I have above mentioned the more positive superficial treatment of candidates, it goes both ways and most of the negatives are just as superficial. For example the Hillary laugh, while obviously fake and aimed at dismissing the question in itself should be rather moot compared to the actual answer she gives when she stops her boisterous outburst.
Again, when the media harps on the inconsequentials the public does as well. It creates superficial voters.
I can go on with other partiular issues but for the sake of brevity I will only highlight the above. The issue particularly nagging is the polls one. Constant horse race coverage on how Guilliani is up 2 points...Clinton is leading...Huckabee is surging...all of this makes politics a sort of sport and the candidates play the game.