For the next eight weeks, voters across the country will be bombarded by political messages from candidates on both sides of the aisle. Republicans and Democrats are running out of time to convince voters their vision for the country is the right one.
While mudslinging and advertising-overload in the weeks leading up to an election are nothing new, the 2012 elections are extreme.
American voters are more politically divided along partisan lines today than they have been for the last 25 years, according to a Pew Research Center report from June 2012. As a result, Americans are more undecided than in previous elections.
This hyperpolarized environment is exaggerated by the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case in January 2010. This case prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. The impact of this decision has created vast funding inequities that are skewing races small and large. Together, these elements have created an election season characterized by lies, distortions and negative political advertisements.
This has a detrimental effect on voters. A Gallup poll from December 2011 showed that 70 percent of Americans could not wait for the campaign to be over. Another 62 percent said the country is heading in the wrong direction, according to a recent poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports.
Still, ratings for both conventions have been strong. The opening night of the Democratic National Convention, featuring Michelle Obama, saw 26.2 million viewers. Last week’s Republican National Convention saw 22.3 million viewers during Mitt Romney’s prime time address.
As we prepare for the next phase of the political process, the debates, Americans are in for more frustration. In the HBO series Newsroom, the staff challenges the current format of presidential debates, proposing a new style that will prompt electees to answer questions about what the people really want to know. Many Americans have expressed they feel the debate format is largely a sham.
We are all too familiar with candidates who respond to facilitator’s prompts with rehearsed answers that often don’t even address the questions asked.
In October, the presidential debates will begin. While it is supposed to be a time for Americans to find out what the candidates stand for, the current debate structure will ensure Americans will come away from the debates just as uninformed as they started.
Here at The Pioneer we’re tired of being lied to by our presidential candidates every year leading up to elections. We want to see tangible change.
The presidential election isn’t a popularity contest, it’s the most important decision Americans come together to make. We the people have the ability to change our country.
So what are we doing? We need to refocus ourselves and our nation’s leaders on what really matters and stop wasting time with what doesn’t. Instead of focusing on the mistakes and gaffes made in the heat of the moment by politicians, we should focus on the facts surrounding the candidates. The choices candidates make in their lives and the collective experience they amass as a result, tell us much more about their potential than any speech could ever do.
For the next two months, voters should ignore the mudslinging in favor of the facts, choices and experiences of the candidates.
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, September 6th, 2012 at 12:33 pm.