The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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American Idol politics dominate election

The level of political discourse in this country is embarrassing. For most Americans, politics no longer feature a serious discussion of policies and issues.

Instead, 24-hour cable news, social media and a variety of other things make our elections about a never-ending series of something-gates.

For example take cookie-gate, where Mitt Romney insulted some cookies from a famous bakery that he thought looked weird. Is this really news worthy?

Or look at Massachusetts, where there is an uproar over Senator Scott Brown’s acceptance of a campaign donation from the owner of the Yankees.

The Sox-loving people of Massachusetts of course despise the Yankees.

This is kind of a fun little issue, but the sad thing is that an authority no less important than the Boston Globe weighed in.

However, the most ridiculous feature of this year’s presidential election has been the almost obsessive discussion of dogs.

As most people who have even paid a modicum of attention to the election so far know, Mitt Romney put his dog on the roof of his car on a road trip once when the dog had the runs.

Now, this is a little weird, considering I, like most people, would never do that to my dogs.

But here’s the thing: news organizations have run countless stories about it. Gail Collins, a columnist for the New York Times has mentioned it in more than 50 columns since this fall.

This week, the Republicans came up with their dog counter-attack. In President Obama’s book, he admits to having eaten dog when he was a child.

The campaign managers of both campaigns have commented on this issue with their Twitter accounts, and the weird dog experiences of our presidential candidates continue to be discussed in depth.

There are countless other pseudo-scandals that could be mentioned, like Hillary Rosen’s comments on Ann Romney or Ted Nugent’s comments on President Obama, but the point is that almost everything that the media focuses on in every political race is nonsense.

The reasons that campaigns and the media focus on this stuff are because it’s easier than actually debating issues and it drives ratings. In other words: we like it.

To be fair, silly political squabbling has been going on forever, but only in recent decades has it reached a fever pitch.

It is now starting to harm our democracy. Elections are now more popularity contests than actual debates.

In this century, the presidential elections have been particularly void of serious discussion of the issues.

It was in 2000 that people started talking about whom they’d rather have a beer with. Charismatic George W. Bush of course beat the robotic Al Gore on this test.

In 2004, John Kerry focused on his military heroism as the defining issue of his campaign. George W. Bush’s campaign sought to discredit his military record and portray him as an aloof, robotic, flip-flopper. Of course, they succeeded.

But it was the election of 2008 that truly showcased the ridiculous nature of our politics. For the first time in our history, a presidential candidate was more of a celebrity than an accomplished politician. He had no experience and no record to run on.

Yet, that did not matter. He was cool, he hung around celebrities, Europeans adored him, the media adored him, he was articulate and he gave stirring speeches. Apparently that is all that is needed to persuade the average voter.

The Republicans were no better. They nominated an undisputed national hero in John McCain, and although he at least had an impressive legislative record to run on, the selling point of his campaign was his heroism and national service.

I sincerely hope that this election is not another popularity contest, yet it seems that the media and the respective campaigns are content with it being just that.

I would just like to remind these campaigns that they are running for the office of President of the United States. The person we select will be the most powerful person in the world. Their policies will have real effects on our lives.

I hope the campaigns and the media will seriously present the competing visions for the future of this country, instead of just squabbling about who won the news cycle.

There are serious choices we face in this election, and we need the voters to be as informed as possible.

This is the public service that the media and the campaigns are supposed to provide.

Yet, when Americans turn on the TV, they are more likely to see the latest dog story than a description of the candidate’s plans for Medicare and Social Security.

The Founders would be so proud.

Andrew is a sophomore majoring in finance, French and markets and culture. 

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