The public wants what the public gets …

Democratic Presidential Debate in Vegas

Living in a nation in which presidential canvassing is a never-ending cycle where campaigning for the next election begins almost as soon as the last one ends, it’s difficult to pay much heed to the myriad candidates promising an endless array of bread and circuses or, conversely, labeling foes as the antichrist.

The media has done much to create this horse race atmosphere, dispatching a multitude of reporters to follow candidates and catch the daily 20-second platitudes of aspiring nominees while real news around the nation and the world goes uncovered.

Candidates understand the game and manipulate the media, who play along in order to maintain access. Negative stories appear, but generally unless a candidate has an absolutely astounding number of craptacular skeletons in his or her closet, the media’s not going to scuttle anyone’s campaign.

More candidates equal more possibilities which equal more news. And more news means more ad sales, at least for television.

So when my daughters or friends ask me who I’m voting for, I tell them it’s early so I haven’t made up my mind. This is true, as our presidential election is still more than a year away.

The reality is that I have better things to do than listen to highly coached politicians spout well-rehearsed lines that have been trotted out and approved by focus groups.

Sadly, some of the most astute bit of political analysis I’ve come across is the following, which comes from a website called What Would Tyler Durden Do?, a website largely dedicated to mocking celebrities.

Although the site rarely strays into politics, and can be more obscene than a Kardashian attempting to read Shakespeare, Tyler Durden has a pragmatic take on the American political system that, while few in power would like to admit, is likely closer to reality than many average US citizens realize.

Consider its take on the recent Democratic debate:

Bernie Sanders supporters are largely more educated than Clinton supporters, but widely less practical. Despite the fact that Sanders college-aged Internet minions flooded the polling sites post-Democratic debate to declare Bernie Sanders the hippy atheist god almighty, every single major media outlet including CNN which ran the debate picked Hillary Clinton as the winner. Now Sanders followers are outraged, bemused, and frazzled. The standard emotional state of socialists.

I’m reluctantly forced to admire young Utopian dreamers. Before you get your first real STD or crappy job to pay the rent or unwanted pregnancy or draft notice or lousy marriage or mortgage or cancer, that is the time to dream of a perfect world. A land where everybody chooses bikes over cars, the homeless are no longer mentally ill alcoholics but misunderstood poets, and the fry guy and the McDonald’s CEO both make 40 bucks an hour, 10 after taxes. But politics isn’t about childish dreams. It’s about Mafioso-level bodies in the dumpster realities.

CNN is owned by Time Warner Cable. It donates heavily to the Clintons and Bushes for a reason that has nothing to do with the political philosophy you cherish while smoking pot in the quad and discussing Marx. It has to do with access and power and money. Big huge gobs of money in billion-dollar chunks. Let’s see, do we support the socialist who wants to break us up into little bits and force us to compete with public access channels on taxpayer-funded steroids or do we want the hacks who will keep us tight and flush with monopoly cash?

Agree or disagree with the above, it possesses more than a little truth. We’re certainly a long way from what the Founding Fathers, imperfect though they may have been, had in mind more than 225 years ago.

(“The public wants what the public gets” is from “Going Underground,” by The Jam.)

15 thoughts on “The public wants what the public gets …

    • I know we’ve come a long way from the media that existed even 15 years ago, but given that Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” began before I’d even started school and Lee Atwater assisted Ronald Reagan and George Bush in the 1980s, when I was in high school and college, I can’t say that politics has changed much, although it seems even more dumbed down than ever.

      • But the American tolerance for the political status quo may be changing…I think the reason that Trump and Sanders have gotten any traction at all is that Americans are tiring of the political ruling elite such as Clinton and Bush. I think they also tend to view the Scott Walker’s and Marco Rubio’s of the world as people who only have an interest in getting and staying elected rather than doing some good for the country as a whole.

      • It’s unfortunate that it takes folks at the extreme ends of the political spectrum to wake Americans up, but you may be right. There’s no doubt that many are tired of the status quo, including those candidates who do whatever it takes to get elected again and again and again.

  1. First off- love the Jam reference. So apt- and you know I think Paul Weller is genius.

    I admit that I haven’t been paying all that much attention to the US elections. As you say, there’s still a year to go, and we’ve had our own shysters selling bread and circuses to contend with up here (only a few more days to go- then we’ll see if people were really paying attention, these past 10 years…).

    While I agree with some of the sentiments in the quoted blurb (some young voters are more idealist than realist, certainly), I have to say that the American abhorrence of socialism is somewhat inexplicable to me- and the rhetoric of the piece is pretty extreme.

    Coming from a country with (imperfect) public healthcare and retirement plans, and a semblance of social safety nets (which have been gradually degraded by this current government, and, to be fair, its predecessors), and having studied (to a limited degree) the socialist systems of countries like Sweden, I just don’t understand the horror of this type of government as expressed by a very vocal population of Americans.

    To be ‘socialist’ is not, inherently, evil (and you know I loathe that word). That our media outlets are funded by the politicians that they are supposed to report on- without bias? Not sure I can say the same about that little reality.

    Thoughtful post, as always.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Cole. Socialism isn’t evil, per se, but I think it rubs a lot of Americans the wrong way because we see ourselves as individualists who, ideally, can either succeed or fail on our own. I know it’s never that simple, but the idea of giving up a significant portion of your salary to the government so they can do some of the same things as private entities in many ways goes against the spirit of the country’s early founders.

      And if we’re talking about nationalization of companies and industries, I really don’t think that’s a recipe for success. Incentive is what often motivates individuals and businesses to put forth the extra effort that results in innovation and positive change. It’s an imperfect system, but no system run by men and women is going to be perfect.

      I personally believe we have a responsibility to take care of those who can’t care for themselves or need a hand, to offer everyone a quality education and that we should open our doors to as many from other countries as possible, but I also understand that you can’t give people everything they want, nor should you. You give them what they need. But that comes with a price. We’re trying to figure out the right balance, just like other countries are.

      Some Americans aren’t happy with the fact that some uninsured get free medical care when they need it. And, yes, some – a small percentage – take advantage of our nation’s handouts. I don’t think it’s a big enough number to worry about. I recently saw a study that showed that among Tennessee’s welfare applicants, just 37 out of 16,017 applicants tested positive for illegal drug use. So much for the shibboleth that the vast majority of welfare recipients are on drugs.

      Two more points: Don’t believe the likes of the xenophobic New York developer with the bad toupee or the ex-first lady who seems to think she’s just a tad smarter than everyone else. Most Americans don’t fall into either extreme.

      Finally, Paul Weller is indeed THE MAN!

  2. I’m just watching Blair’s New LabourM.P.s and Murdoch’s press trying to destabilise the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn….voted in by all the people who left Blair’s New Labour when it got into bed with Murdoch….

    • I confess I don’t have the stomach to watch much political coverage, or at least what passes for such in the US. I’ll read about it, but I just can’t see spending time watching the filtered pablum that networks call coverage.

  3. I was amazed when the US media declared Clinton the winner in the CNN debate, and Sanders an also-ran. Or worse that Clinton simply wiped the floor with the latter. On this side of the Atlantic the view was a neck-and-neck contest with Sanders shading it.

      • Haha. Sure, all TV election debates are fairly shallow affairs unless you get the right type of combatative presenter to host it. Still I thought the CNN Democrat debate was interesting enough. More substance than in the Republican debates. Though Sanders may have forced that change.

  4. Hmm, I was an idealistic Goldwater Republican before I was forced to confront the real world as a single water. It was being smacked in the head with the daily struggle to support a child that converted me into a socialist/anarchist.

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