Home > Blogging/Tech/New Media, Campaign 2012, MSM, Political culture > Wherein I agree with Jon Huntsman

Wherein I agree with Jon Huntsman

From the LA Times: Jon Huntsman: Herman Cain a distraction in GOP race

Speaking with the Boston Globe, the former Utah governor said he was again disappointed to see Monday night that a fresh report about Cain — the latest alleges an extramarital affair; it follows accusations of sexual harassment earlier in the month — was getting more attention than the major issues.

“What about a [financial] downgrade that is being anticipated? What about Europe? What about so many other issues out there that we ought to be talking about and that people ought to understand where candidates come down on those issues?” Huntsman said.

“Every time another accusation comes up, it diminishes our ability to stay focused on the issues that really do matter for the American people. And I think that’s a disservice to the voters,” he added.

Now, dear readers, before you think I’ve gone soft on you, let’s make a few things clear. I do NOT think Herman Cain should get out of the race. I do NOT favor Jon Huntsman for the nomination (he’s not even on my top five list…..). And I DO think that this is not a high minded appeal by Huntsman for the media to be more civilized but rather pure jockeying on his part to become “the thinker” in this race.

Here’s what I DO agree with Huntsman on: the media spends far too much time on the personal part of the campaign and not the policy part. Honestly, this is nothing new (look to the 1800 campaign when both candidates were labeled as godless heathens, depending on if you were reading a Federalist or Democratic-Republican leaning newspaper), nor something limited to national politics (there’s nothing more the local political media loves to cover than a “debate over debates”). The fact of the matter, though, is when it comes to politics, the hierarchy of reporting goes personal information, campaign tactics and strategy, and somewhere in the basement, policy talk. It’s what we really WANT the system to be about: voters choosing the candidate who will put into place the policies they want, a debate over the direction of our community and nation.

But that’s never how it plays out. And honestly, its not all the media’s fault. To quote Megadeath, “Peace Sells, But Who’s Buying?” It used to be all about sold the most papers–nowadays, its more about who gets the most clicks. But it all comes down to the same thing–public interest, which under most media schemes, leads to revenues. Even with bloggers in the mix now who aren’t operating on a revenue based schema, they’re still interested in getting people interested, because that leads to clicks, and that leads to access, and that leads to more clicks. Of course, with many bloggers now hosting advertisements or pursuing lucrative mainstream media careers, the distinction is ever more blurred–if it ever really existed at all….but that’s a book for another time.

Ultimately, though, people are interested in this sort of thing. There’s an undeniable strain of prurient interest in the human race. Also, schadenfruede and jealousy play a role as well……there are some people who just love to see the “big guys” taken out, even if they weren’t always the big ones. And moral issues ARE important….the problem lies in how important they are to each individual, to say nothing of the fact that some things are clearly moral to some and clearly immoral to others. Or maybe ethics is the word I want to use…..see how I turned that around? That’s the problem–in elections at the national level, you’re trying to appeal to the worldview of some 100 million odd people. A good chunk will always choose you, another chunk will never choose you, and the battle lies in the middle. But all of those are individuals….each with their own thinking on all of the issues a presidents faces and their own views on how a president should act.

So my point? Yes, I do think that America faces some big, big problems right now and THAT’s what we need to be talking about. We can sort this all out about Herman Cain, and if it is true, well…..it would certainly give me pause about him. But the great irony is that Cain would not be in this position were it not for the fact that he was a candidate that electrified the conservative base with a clear, appealing message: the now infamous “9-9-9” tax plan. Once he got to the podium, to the surprise of the media’s wagging tounges, they just HAD to know who he was….and so did a certain chunk of the electorate. Now we know more about him, and there’s lots of questions, justified questions….but we’re completely away from the very thing that brought him to us in the first place, the issues.

There needs to be balance. That much I know–unfortunately, the best I can do is encourage voters to consider everything equally and not be drawn into the horserace. I just don’t have an answer to how change how elections are covered–and as a student of politics, I’m not sure anyone ever will.

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  1. December 2, 2011 at 8:17 am

    If you’re going to try to sound hip by talking about what the kids are listening to, you should at least spell the name of the band correctly.

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