Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Presidential Campaign Fatigue

We are roughly 100 days out from Election Day, a day that can’t come soon enough, in my opinion.  Already, I have Presidential Campaign Fatigue—PCF in medical parlance—which means that I break into a cold sweat when I see a black and white photo of candidate X—be it the incumbent or his opponent—superimposed over a red background with a sonorous voice telling us how the candidate once approved the mass slaughter of a litter of kittens, all the while forcing us to buy health insurance, making billions of dollars, or cutting jobs at a rate consistent with the mating habits of common garden rodents. 

Every day, we are hounded by reports of “gaffes” by one or the other Presidential candidates, anything that ranges from misidentifying the state bird of North Dakota to telling it like it is—as it was reported in the host country’s own tabs—when it comes to security at the Olympic Village.  The gaffes may be of a political nature but I do know that most are inconsequential to the state of the Union.  The wives of the candidates are no exception; one gets slammed for wearing a gorgeous—albeit expensive—jacket on an overseas jaunt while the other makes the mistake of saying “you people” when referring to, well, you people.  (Personally, I think "you people" is a legitimate catchall but that may because I spend 50 hours alone every week in an attic.)  It makes me wonder why anyone in their right mind would want to run for office, never mind allow their spouse to do so.

Are the days of true civility gone?  According to a recent poll, 95% of Americans want civility in politics and 87% believe we can actually achieve that goal!  Another 85% of Americans would love—LOVE!—it if their leaders could form friendships across the aisle.  Seriously, how are we supposed to get along in a global economy and world if we can’t even stomach the guy sitting across from us, the guy we need to reach consensus with in order to legislate effectively?  In doing research for this post, I now know that there are entire sites devoted to civility in politics but I guess the people who really need to look at these sites—our politicians—aren’t reading them or heeding their measured words.

I wonder, though, if the mud slinging became a thing of the past, would the idea of an informed decision take root?  In other words, if we really knew what candidates stood for, without all of the noise and incivility, would we be able to make a decision that reflected what we actually knew and cared about in terms of each candidate?  Because right now, here’s what I have been told about both candidates and their wives:

1.     One is a socialist who wants to steal from the rich and give to the poor.

2.     The other stole billions of dollars while working as a businessman and doesn’t think that rich people should pay taxes at all. Oh, and he strapped his Irish setter to the top of his car and drove to Canada.

3.     If you don’t have anyone to blame in an argument, you can go with either George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. 

4.     One’s wife is a wealthy woman who likes to ride horses and is against all working moms.

5.     The other’s wife shops at Banana Republic sometimes but most of the time spends American’s hard-earned dollars on clothes.

I guess you could say that there is a scintilla of truth in every statement listed above but do any of them really tell the entire story of the person, their beliefs, their habits, or their ability to govern? 

I read a lot.  I watch a lot of television.  And then I read some more.  I happen to be working on a book right now that deals with the American political landscape which is fascinating because its “just the facts, ma’am” approach reminds me that the bedrock of our political system is solid and based on sound principles of philosophy specifically generated during the Age of Enlightenment.  Based on what we hear and see these days, you’d think that the guy who wrote FIGHT CLUB had drafted the campaign strategies of both candidates.

So I guess my question is this:  how do you tune out the “noise” of the campaign and make an informed decision come voting time?  Or is your mind already made up?

Maggie Barbieri


  1. We are lucky, a little, in Illinois, since the President is from our state. Friends in Ohio? Not so lucky! It's the home-turf being ceded effect that means we get less political advertising, except for the state and national congressional races.

    You have to read and listen very critically, as you already said, Mags. If no one else is going to filter the nonsense out and put the facts left in the bottom of the colander on your plate, you have to do it yourself. Using lots of varying sources for info is best. Every source, channel, blog, newspaper, etc., has its slant, so you need to collect from many to get a more honest aggregate.

    That said, it is a tough task. Journalism in America is pitiful and pathetic and news media do not make getting real info any easier. Go figure, in college they told us that was what journalism was: good/honest/fair reporting. When I was young we thought the news was dull and it was because it was meant for thinking adults, not for children or people in arrested development wanting mindless, sparkly distractions. We had The Flintstones and The Rockford Files for that. But, how much actual truth and information does journalism actually present? I’m not saying that it’s wrong for us to have to make an effort as citizens, but it would also be right for news media to make an effort, as part of the citizenry, to help vs. hinder regardless of who owns and operates those media outlets.

    I've already decided, but I still wish that we had less childish campaigns plus more actual information out there, even for those of us who already know how we're voting. After all, it's not just the election, it's the whole package, the whole agenda and philosophy of any candidate and elected rep, that we should be tracking every day, not just for election day.

  2. Maggie, I'm blessed by the fact that we only use our television to watch videos. When I go to a restaurant with my husband and TVs are blaring one nasty political commercial after another, I am so thankful for that. Gave up TV long ago, not as a cultural decision, but simply to gain more time for writing.

    And I must agree with Vicky on the irresponsibility and worthlessness of our media. This from a woman whose undergraduate was in journalism and creative writing. News has turned into infomercials, "reality" shows, and political garbage.

    It's sad to see what a curmudgeon I've turned into, isn't it?

  3. I hate the name-calling and lying both parties do, the stupid media and their favoritism (depending upon their preference) and to be honest, I'm not thrilled with either choice. Government has gotten so far away from the true needs of the people that I don't know how we'll survive. It's much better living in the fantasy world of books where at least the ending are usually upbeat.

  4. Thanks, Vicky, for chiming in on the debate. Glad we all feel the same way in such a bipartisan fashion. Linda, if you're a curmudgeon, well, then I'm one, too. And yes, Marilyn, I prefer to stay in my fantasy world. Maggie

  5. I'm watching less television than ever before because I'd rather read. I have the Olympics, and baseball and so far I'm avoiding as much of the political ads as possible. I've made up my mind because I truly believe in the ordinary guy (and gal) being the backbone of our great country, and these are vey scary times for those of us who need, and paid into, the government. So I plan to tune out as much as is possible, and wait for your next book.

  6. Thanks, Lil. You made me smile my first smile of the day (4:40 a.m. here!). Yes, we're sticking to the Olympics, too, and rue the thought of when they end. I think it will be all political ads, all the time. Sigh. Maggie

  7. Maggie, we could start an organizations--Curmudegeons R Us.

  8. OMG... I came back from visiting my sister in Western Kentucky... she's in a 3 state television market.... ICK!! think about it!!! political commericals from 3 different states... all the time!!!