Saturday, November 3, 2012
Who decided that to compete in the world of presidential politics, you must be willing and able to raise and spend upwards of a billion dollars?
Who decided that a presidential "debate" may only include two candidates, who don't actually debate at all, but merely recite talking points, and only in a format that they have jointly pre-approved in advance? Oh that's right, the Republicans and Democrats made that decision all by themselves. In fact it has been that way since 1988, when the two parties got together and created a bi-partisan commission to control the debate process.
Debates used to be run by the League of Women Voters, remember? But after the commission was formed and a long list of demands was issued from the Bush and Dukakis campaigns, the LWV refused to comply and announced that they would no longer participate in organizing the debates. They issued a press release, saying, among other things:
"The League of Women Voters is withdrawing sponsorship of the presidential debates ... because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates' organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public."
The LWV walked away in disgust, and the commission has controlled the debate process ever since.
You should read this article that details the whole affair, as well as the full press release from the LWV.
So why should we care about these debates?
Why should we care about anything the candidates say? It has been long understood that presidential campaigns are nothing more than marketing campaigns. They are not meant to enlighten, or provide useful information on which candidate would actually do the best job of serving the country. Campaigns are merely meant to sell the candidates to the public, as Aldous Huxley said, like deoderant.
Remember Obama's 2008 campaign? Its success led him to be named "Marketer Of The Year" and his campaign was given gushing praise by leaders in the advertising business. This is nothing new. As Huxley wrote in Brave New World Revisited in 1958:
"…today, in the world’s most powerful democracy, the politicians and their propagandists prefer to make nonsense of democratic procedures by appealing almost exclusively to the ignorance and irrationality of the electors. “Both parties,” we were told in 1956 by the editor of a leading business journal, “will merchandize their candidates and issues by the same methods that business has developed to sell goods. These include scientific selection of appeals and planned repetition… . Radio spot announcements and ads will repeat phrases with a planned intensity. Billboards will push slogans of proven power… . Candidates need, in addition to rich voices and good diction, to be able to look ‘sincerely’ at the TV camera.”
The political merchandisers appeal only to the weaknesses of voters, never to their potential strength. They make no attempt to educate the masses into becoming fit for self-government; they are content merely to manipulate and exploit them. For this purpose all the resources of psychology and the social sciences are mobilized and set to work…All that is now needed is money and a candidate who can be coached to look “sincere...”
In one way or another, as vigorous he-man or kindly father, the candidate must be glamorous. He must also be an entertainer who never bores his audience. Inured to television and radio, that audience is accustomed to being distracted and does not like to be asked to concentrate or make a prolonged intellectual effort. All speeches by the entertainer-candidate must therefore be short and snappy. The great issues of the day must be dealt with in five minutes at the most — and preferably (since the audience will be eager to pass on to something a little livelier than inflation or the H-bomb) in sixty seconds flat. The nature of oratory is such that there has always been a tendency among politicians and clergymen to over-simplify complex issues. From a pulpit or a platform even the most conscientious of speakers finds it very difficult to tell the whole truth. The methods now being used to merchandise the political candidate as though he were a deodorant positively guarantee the electorate against ever hearing the truth about anything."
That was in 1958. Do you think things have gotten any better?
But it's more than the fact that the candidates are manufactured media personalities with no substance. It is that they are given to us by very rich and very powerful people who would like us to think we are exercising our rights as citizens to choose, but in reality are simply picking from two pre-selected characters who have essentially the same underlying agendas, dictated to them by those same rich and powerful people.
What to do? I don't know, but you have to start somewhere. And I think it would be a good start if more and more people would just stand up to express their unwillingness to tolerate this completely corrupted system in its present state, any longer, and start exploring other options. As Mr Spock once said, there are always possibilities...