Saturday Selects: Your Voice

Saturday Selects is a series of posts I write on the first Saturday (usually) of each month to discuss a topic outside the general bookish theme of the blog. Today is a topic I touched on fairly recently. The 2016 presidential campaign.

Donald Trump will be the GOP nominee come November. Many who thought his candidacy was nothing more than a joke and public spectacle are now grappling with whether to support him or not.

But just because he’s emerged from a crowded field of contenders for the highest office in the world doesn’t mean anything is set in stone just yet. He’s been praised for having brought in new voters to the GOP while also being ridiculed by members of his own party.

But my message to you is quite simple. Your voice can still be heard. You have Trump, who needs no introduction whatsoever. And you’ll have Hillary. Many argue this election will truly be about the lesser of two evils, but I tend to disagree. Only one of the candidates is highly unqualified to hold the most important office in the world. And the other candidate has decades of public service.

My question today isn’t about your voting preference. I’m curious to learn your thoughts on how we reached this point.

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3 thoughts on “Saturday Selects: Your Voice

  1. I believe political campaigning changed substantially with the emergence of television as the dominant media. Before the 1950s, Americans got information about candidates over radio and in print. Before radio it was exclusively in print, and/or in person if you were lucky enough to live where candidates traveled to speak.

    Performing on-camera is a different style of presentation, employing different tools. Things like personal attractiveness, gestures, vocal tone, and general ease of being photographed all become part of the message. Comparisons to decide which candidates are better at improvisation become more important.

    Marshall McLuhan and other media theorists began writing about this effect in the mid-1960s, and re-reading these works, they seem prescient. If we set aside all other factors, including policy positions, the major party presidential candidate who has appeared most at ease on-camera has won every time since 1960.

    It fascinates me to consider to what degree we decide things based on visual (as opposed to word-based) information. It may indicate part of our genetic predisposition. If you go clear back to George Washington, 75% of the time whichever candidate was taller won the election.

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  2. I think the demise of the Fairness Doctrine bears a lot of the blame. It cleared the way for right-wing talk radio and Fox News, which enabled the GOP to brand itself as the party of God. Once that impression became entrenched, it’s been impossible to undo.

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  3. Most people are not 100% Democrat or 100% Republican, but our presidential candidates must stick to a 100% platform in order to get funding and nomination. This is particularly troublesome when political alignment is better thought of as a quadrant rather than a left/right line:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_compass

    The current election represents this divide well. You’ve pretty much got 4 parties these days, representing the true four quadrants of political thought: the authoritarian left (Bernie), the authoritarian right (Trump), the libertarian left (Hilary), and the libertarian right (the anti-Trump GOP).

    Americans have generally been anti-authoritarian, so I think the better question is “how did America get to the point where it suddenly wants a nanny state?” (Even though Hillary is the presumptive nominee, I don’t take Bernie’s popularity lightly. There is obviously a significant part of the Democratic party who thinks we should be like Sweden).People who want an invasive government either want it to take care of them or they want it to take out the people they find undesirable. The former are in dire straits due to a bad economy, student debt, housing prices, etc. I won’t get into the long history of America’s economic decline, but you can fill in the blanks. The latter have been bombarded with race bating news for nearly a decade, along with manufactured fear of The Other – be it ISIS, Muslims, immigrants, or young black men in hoodies.

    So it’s a lot of factors, but I think there’s an overwhelming feeling in America that “someone needs to do something about my problems.” Whether they think all the problems in their life are caused by illegal immigrants taking jobs or by corporations stealing their wages, they want the government to fix it. And it’s not a good thing, because asking a big entity to solve everything is legitimately how dictators rise. People need to start taking responsibility for their own lives and stop blaming all their problems on The Other. And the media needs to stop encouraging them to blame The Other. Of course, is this going to happen? No. And I weep for the future.

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