April 15, 2012
The big disconnect
By Bill Kraus
The disconnect between what voters say they want in campaigns and what campaigners deliver, instead, is astonishing:
Voters want less spending on campaigns, less or no robo calls, a shorter campaign season, and candidates who are--to be crude--not for sale; not so beholden to the money that makes all of the other things that voters want less of possible.
Campaign managers say that money is, always was, the mother’s milk of politics, that the amount needed has inflated dramatically as the media has become more expensive, volunteers have been replaced by hired hands, and money is needed to counter third-party spending in campaigns.
Voters want fewer TV commercials.
Campaigners point out that the people who used to be a prime communication medium when campaigning was largely retail are no longer available. TV is now the message and the medium. This shift from organization to mass media has driven costs through the roof and made message condensation essential. The internet and social media may be in the campaigners' future, but the way to make them the message/medium hasn’t been invented yet.
Voters dislike negative ads.
If this were true, campaigners say, negative ads wouldn’t work. Voters have not yet shown they prefer the kinds of positive campaigns of the not-so-distant past. Voters continue to be swayed by the almost always negative contributions of the third party participants in today’s campaigns.
Voters want serious talk about issues and ideas instead of slam bam thank you ma’am appeals to emotions instead of intellect.
Campaigners dismiss this. They concede it may have been true, but probably wasn’t, when newspapers and campaign brochures delivered by volunteers were the medium and the message. We’re talking ancient history here.
Voters want their candidates and their representatives to be civil and to respect each other and the trade they all practice.
Like the tea party, like recalls and protest politics, like movement politics, the campaigners ask? Doesn’t seem so. Their follow up question is, “What is the civil response to the kind of single issue fanaticism that the shooters, the anti-choicers, the gay bashers bring to the campaigns?”
Voters want spending limits.
The campaigners point to the fact that we are now in the third century of court decisions that prize free speech over the collateral damage to citizen participation done by the 19th century’s “corporations are people,” the 20th century’s “money is speech,” and the 21st century’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates even further.
The campaigners will start giving the voters what they say they want as soon as the voters ask candidates to put those things on the vote-driving short agenda and follow through by voting for those who do and against those who don’t.
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This is a very very old argument. Domestic abusers use it all the time. "I only hit you because you make me."
Some women, like some of the people who will read this article, will accept that blame. They will be duped into believing that they have more power over the "system" and the behavior of the campaigners than they actually do. People don't like to admit they are powerless, so they can be manipulated into accepting the blame for things over which they have no control at all, and never did.
How about this instead? Politicians, strategists, advertizing people of all sorts (not just political) all make use of, and are themselves, experts in how to manipulate people. Your argument would have us accept that if stressed-out Americans respond to basal brain political manipulations not terribly un-like Pavlov's dogs, or Zimbardo's "jailed" students it's their own faults. Your argument would have us accept that Con Men are not at fault for their actions, it's the fault of the little old ladies who are bilked out of their Social Security checks. In truth, politicians have simply brought their understanding and manipulation of the human psyche to amazing levels. We all know this, we just don't know what to do about it. And I haven't even touched on all the the internal-party maneuvering, blind-siding, and kneecapping of "unfavored" candidates and potential candidates that goes on far from the public eye. The fact that politicians behave like the Sopranos towards one another is hardly the fault of Jane and Joe Average either.
But yes, when people say they are sick of the crap, they really do mean they are sick of the crap. That politicians and strategists really do hear that message (as you prove here), yet don't want to change, or "own" their own behavior comes as no surprise. That such people are able to fabricate plausible explanations such as yours for how their behavior is really the fault of other people (their "victims") comes as no surprise either.
Politicians! You don't act like you do because of me. You act like you do because of you.
-Jody Thompson | Eau Claire , WI | April 15, 2012
Could it be that campaign managers and politicians alike are no more than whores who will do whatever they can to get elected? The public isn't much better. People are detached from policymaking. Once the furor and mudslinging subsides, we wait indifferently until the next campaign cycle starts up, only to subject ourselves to the same all over again.
-Pietr Haikuu | Hurley, Wisc. | April 16, 2012