Elections should be treated with gravity

Every four years, the United States holds a very important event – the election of its next president. It can be a difficult choice for countless voters, and many media outlets’ useless and increasingly "dumbed-down" approach provides neither the clarity nor insight necessary to help citizens make informed choices.

Presidential politics is not a game, though its portrayal throughout many forms of media makes it into a farce. Programs such as The Daily Show provide entertainment and some facts, but should not be one’s sole source of information. Programs of this nature can breed chronic cynicism and disinterest in the electoral process, when what is needed now, more than ever, is participation and faith in our democratic system.

Many cable outlets approach the political process as one would a sport, bombarding viewers with statistics and using terms such as "fans" in relation to a candidate and CNN’s description of the primary elections as "Primary Bowl 2008." There is no other elected position in the U.S. more important than the office of the president. To akin this process to some sort of match between the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks is to unjustly detract from the gravity of the position of the president. Quarterbacks do not send thousands of men and women to war, where many are killed and permanently scarred. Baseball pitchers do not decide how much aid goes to impoverished countries, where life and death are separated by a bag of rice and a barrel of water.

During this long and tortuous primary season, too much emphasis was placed on peripheral nonsense over substance. Each party began with a wide range of candidates, differing in many aspects. The media chose to take one characteristic of each candidate and label them as such, i.e. Mitt Romney,"the Mormon," or Mike Huckabee, "the devout Christian."

Though the numerous debates helped differentiate between the candidates, as the field narrowed, more time was spent by the media on non-issues. Millions of Americans have heard of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but how many know Sen. Barack Obama’s voting record during his time in the Illinois legislature? Because of their excessive coverage of the incident, the media engrained Sen. Hillary Clinton’s "misspeaking" mishap into the American conscious. Rather than attempting to distract voters from what is truly important, this valuable time and resources could have been better spent on educating the U.S. population on each candidate’s foreign policy stance.

Given the special protected status of the media in the U.S., the quality and substance of what is broadcasted and printed should reflect the grave importance of that status. Demand more from those who believe we must be spoon-fed the same insignificant drivel. Citizens of the U.S., the most influential and powerful nation on Earth, must cast off their role as "fans" and work towards restoring our democracy, and all of its entities, as respectable and functional products of a concerned and informed people.

Webb, a political science and creative writing senior, can be reached via [email protected].

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