Short term memory of politics

I never wanted this blog to get non-technical or political, but here we are. I’ve written a number of blog entries over the last year that I never published but I’ve decided to let some of them into the wild. It’s interesting how some of my comments from back in January still apply today. Here is one of the unpublished blog entries from January. Ironically a comment was made in the media today that with only a couple weeks to go until elections, people will have a short memory on everything from issues to the latest (real or ficticious) scandal.

Before the primaries the candidates were debating immigration. Now that they’re actually pressing hard to get votes in individual states, they’re finding out what’s really important to America. So now they’re all talking about the economy, jobs, and change. One way to explain this is that these people didn’t have a clue what was important a few weeks ago. That doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies because I’m hoping a presidential candidate would have some clue about what’s really important, and not be so polarized about the topic of the moment. The other way to explain this is that they’re sucking up to each state they visit, telling people whatever it takes to get votes. While this is what we expect from politicians, I’m not too excited about that either. It’s not just the sucking up part that I don’t like – it’s the fact that they aren’t skilled enough to hide the fact that they’re sucking up by shifting priorities so quickly. Where is the eloquence, the stealthy dance that seasoned politicians use to get something by us without us knowing? If you’re going to lie, make it a good one that we won’t notice. Don’t be so obvious about it. What fun is there in that?

But is it obvious? I mean, it’s not like anyone is going to notice. It seems the press is going along for the ride, following each issue as readily as someone who has no short-term memory. They’re either not noticing or just not commenting on these radical shifts in priorities. Perhaps they’re just caught in the moment. They are after all "news" people, not "recents" people. Either the media is as fooled as the rest of us, or they just don’t want to dispel the euphoria Americans seem to feel as we move from one priority to the next. Are they so euphoric themselves that they can’t get out of the sound-bite mentality and ask a candidate "hey, what really is your priority here?" Is it better to have a passive audience who will watch your "news" coverage between the important revenue generating commercials?
Would it be too much to ask one of these broadcasters to create a little news by taking a step back and asking what the real priorities are?

We hear a lot on CNN about "keeping them honest". While that tagline has a lot of potential for good I’m afraid it’s become over-used and more bark than bite. If the media were keeping the politicians honest, they wouldn’t let them go with hyperbole and rhetoric and the same stock phrases we’ve been hearing for generations: "America is great – It’s all for the children – We’re going to fix education and create jobs – Affordable healthcare for all…" Nope, stop, excuse me Senator but can you tell us now exactly how you plan to solve any problem – pick one, your choice, just be specific, site some examples of what you’ve already done, and if you deviate from the topic we’ll give your colleague across the aisle a chance to tell us what they can do. … And by the way Senator, we’ll be back here next week and if your information about what you’ve done is incorrect you’ll have a chance to set the record straight. Now THAT would be keeping them honest.

Again, the above was written in January 2008. Now in October 2008 we see candidates are still avoiding the issues – and the media still lets them get away with it. So much for keeping them honest.


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