Pop culture and social media control the views of voters more than ever. Instead of useful information about candidates’ important political ideas, the media focuses on superficial reputation wars and the latest scandals. And it’s easiest, especially for young people, to just accept all the news as it is.
But we must dig deeper if we want to elect someone truly capable for the position of the United States President.
This election race has created some unique relationships between the media and the nominees. In the cases of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and one Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, the press has had alternate effects, despite both individuals receiving their fair share of disrepute.
In both cases, coverage of unrelated and superficial aspects of each person has wrongly affected their campaigns.
Hillary initially found herself at the center of gender-based controversy. Some critics claim she is playing the “gender card” to gain an advantage, while Fox News suggested that her gender may harm her ability to be president. The focus on Hillary being a woman is absurd; the next president should be elected based on qualifications, not gender.
The argument over Hillary’s reputation pales in comparison to the national outrage Trump has caused. Trump spread false claims that President Barack Obama is not a legal citizen and insulted millions of minority members.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said in June at his presidential campaign announcement speech. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems… they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Instead of ignoring these outlandish statements, the media snaps up the sound bites to generate hype around Trump, which ultimately gives him the support he needed as a “bold” candidate. The fact that Trump is one of the Republican frontrunners is simply scary. His supporters must ask themselves if he is truly the person they want running our country and if so, look further for his practical policies on key issues.
The impact of Trump’s bad press contrasts greatly with that of Clinton. Those supporting Clinton have high expectations, which even her slightest of mistakes can undermine. Those backing Trump understand he is more of a comedic act; his remarks can only build upwards from his past reputation as a show-biz mogul.
Ultimately, media has spawned a disconnect between voter and nominee. Rooted in the media’s tendency to highlight past flaws rather than future plans and causes, candidates focus less on the rationale behind their platforms and more on the degradation of their opponents.
Presidential debates are also littered with the same kind of superficial coverage. The intended reason isferences in each candidate’s plans for the future. Instead, in recent Republican debates, such as the one held in Boulder, Colorado, candidates spent valuable air-time trying to smear each other’s surface reputations. Even the party’s own member Ted Cruz highlighted this issue through his mockery of the debate mediator.
“John Casey, will you insult two people over here, Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign, Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen,” Cruz said. “How about talking about the substantive issues people care about?”
Of course, there are two sides to this coin. Popular media often reflects the interests of its audience and it might just be that the public doesn’t care for the substantial political aspects of choosing a candidate.
While the excitement will probably fade as the election progresses, this initial phase indicates that voters are easily swayed and side-tracked by the media. It’s okay to laugh at the occasional Donald Trump meme in your Facebook feed, but we must also be aware of the distorting effect of the media on both truly serious and joke candidates. Because the media won’t, only we can dig deeper into the truth about candidates and take the time to figure out how qualified each candidate really is.