Wednesday, November 5, 2008

on 2 year presidential campaigns

Two years of political statements, debates, and speechs. You would think that was too much, yes? I don't. I think we may have finally gotten back to real political campaigns.

Ever since Kennedy debated Nixon on television, politics has been dominated by smaller and smaller sound bites. [The epitome, ultimate one of those stereotypes is either]Sound bites have given the stereotyping of Democrats with "tax and spend", and the swift-boating of John Kerry. [I'll let other people argue about which was the greatest, but I know that] These sound bites were a travesty - a mockery of real political discussion.

A two year campaign meant that we got to see each candidate, to understand who was supporting them, and why, and we got to know something of what they stood for. We got to see them under pressure, not just once or twice, and not in only controlled environments. We got to see them respond to many challenges. We had an opportunity to observe them in action, and not just one or two of them - many of them.

I don't know, but I suspect that when Lincoln ran for president, his speeches were well-attended, well-reported, and oft-repeated. I suspect that most people had a good idea of what the candidates stood for, because they were real news at the time. People would have paid a great deal of attention to what they could hear. And, others would willingly perpetrate great lies, but most people would also know something of the character of the people speaking, and would recognize a less reliable source as just that.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran, we had radio and whistle-stop tours, but I believe the same principles would still hold true. The campaigners would be well-listened to, because they were one of the few things going beyond the ordinary bounds of daily life. A campaign speech was a notable event, and as such, got attention.

Today we have a glut of availability of exciting things, things that are beyond our ordinary realm of daily life. Television shows take us around the world, or traveling in time, or into flights of imagination, at the flick of a switch. Movies have come, via the television and the internet, into our homes and our lives. Education, fiction, news, games - entertainment and mental activity are more than readily available - they are thrown into our path so that we may not ignore them.

One of the wonderful things about traveling to other countries that are less occupied by the media and material things is the quiet that persists through each day. So much of the stimuli that we are bombarded with is simply not there. Life takes on a simplicity, and you realize that you do not need to hear the news each day. The world will not collapse because you haven't heard the latest bit of noise that is available for offer.

In earlier days, our American people lived like this - from day to day. What a political candidate had to say would have been news, and worthy of one's attention. Today, we so much vieing for our attention that the candidates no longer get it. This is quite recognized as why the sound bites developed in the first place - to counter the reduced amount of time a person was willing to spend listening and considering.

I think, though, that this time, we may have found the counterpunch to the sound bite - the long campaign.

No comments: