Politics and Democracy

One of the most frustrating things about politics is how each candidate tells us that the other candidate voted against puppies and sunshine, which is supposed to make us believe that candidate is stupid or evil.  But the truth is that the "puppies and sunshine" bill wasn’t just about puppies and sunshine; it also included poison ivy and toxic waste down in the fine print.

But the attacking candidate doesn’t tell you the whole truth; their goal is to trick you into hating the other candidate.  And I don’t know what’s worse: the fact that our politicians believe we’re that stupid, or the fact that many of us ARE that stupid.

The result is that during debates, like the Biden-Palin debate last week, we don’t get to hear two reasonably smart people debating about the issues facing the country.  Instead we get to listen to them bicker for 2 hours about who voted for what, except it’s even worse than that, because mixed in with the bickering is deception.

Part of the problem is that there’s this notion that candidates are supposed to be perfect.  I don’t think that’s so much because voters expect the candidates to be perfect; I think it’s more because the media demonizes every flaw they can find in the candidates.

I think the media has largely failed us when it comes to politics, and this failure of the media hurts our country in two ways.  First, it makes it that much harder for the candidates to be fully open and honest about themselves, because any admission of a past mistake -- and every candidate has made mistakes -- will be demonized by the media.

Second, each candidate is naturally going to try to paint themselves in the best possible light, and paint their opponents in the worst possible light.  So since what we’re going to get from the candidates themselves is going to contain large amounts of spin, it’s all the more important for the media to paint us complete and accurate pictures of the candidates, and all the more disappointing when they fail to do so.

The media can’t take all the blame, of course, but there’s no doubt that a more competent media would go a long way towards improving the political situation in this country.  I don’t know what the total solution is.  I just know that in every election, no matter how hard I try to learn about the candidates, I always feel like I don’t have the complete picture, and furthermore that no one really made any attempt to provide me with the complete picture.

It’s easy to see why there’s so much voter apathy; who really wants to bother with voting when the situation is such a confusing mess?  And the fact is that every election comes down to a choice between the lesser of two evils; that’s kind of depressing, but in a world where every human is flawed, that’s the best we can do.

In the end, though, we virtually always get two candidates where one can be described as "more liberal" and the other "more conservative."  And since each of us tends to identify with one or the other of those characteristics, we can rest assured that the candidate we vote for will in general support the same kinds of things we support.  So maybe the system isn’t so bad after all.

Posted by Anthony on reply

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