Yes! And the name of that reality is “US Presidential Campaign 2008”. I’ve been more listening than watching the Democrat debate last night and a weirdly organized discussion about faith and politics today. I have to say i am both amused and shocked.
For those who do not follow, the US presidential election is on the way in about a year and a half from now. Prior to that both parties will hold primaries, sometimes in the beginning of 2008. So, right now the focus is on the battles within each one of the parties. And what could be a better way than making a show out of it?
Indeed, election bears many of the characteristics of a reality show. There is a fight between many and only one will actually win. In the process, participants are put to all kinds of tests with an ultimate goal to be liked by as many people as possible. Finally, the entire process is broadcasted, live of course, on every possible channel.
In the two cases i witnessed so far CNN took the lead. Last night they hosted Democratic candidates debate in New Hampshire. They all were there – eight of them. And there was a host, Wolf Blitze, whose ultimate goal was creating the headlines for tomorrow.
It was a bit bizarre. The questions were obvious. The answers were obvious. The host and the journalists who asked the questions tried to create clashes, but that was actually hard (see the two “obvious” points above). The whole situation reminded me “The Bachelor”. The candidates are there and every one of them knows what is expected from them. So each one is trying to make a best act of an answer that sounds preplanned and never actually contains an answer. One drawback of this presidential reality show compared to all the others is that you still cannot vote with SMS.
Erik nicely labeled it as “political dance” where the candidates are trying to provide a broad and general enough answer to satisfy the median voter. I would simply call it hypocrisy and watching it was a bit frustrating. What does it say about the way politics go these days? How can people, who are obviously playing a game, be treated as leaders? If the entire thing is a game, how can we be surprised that the young people loose their believe in democracy and actually stop voting? What is the difference in the way the election is run compared to a reality show? At the end of the day, choices that those people on political reality show are making, will influence our (and not only) lives, so how can it be just a show?
Or maybe this are the media? All the candidates blamed the media at one stage or another in various bad things that happen to our world and society. Maybe media are to blame for formating the election into a familiar format of a reality show? Is politics too complicated to deal with it substantively? Is life too complicated to deal with it and this is why everything is reduced to a format that seems to satisfy the economic model of a particular TV station? I do view myself as a media scholar, but watching this i feel helpless.
Today we had a spin-off yesterday’s debate when CNN hosted another discussion with the candidates. This time it was about religion. Watching this one you could hear candidates dealing with such important questions as “Is the God on our side in the war in Iraq?”, “What are you asking for when you pray?”, “How will you use prayer when making decisions as a president?”, and more (i’ve probably rephrased the questions, but they are not far from what was actually asked). Now, leaving aside the fact that this debate boldly primed Edwards, Obama, and Clinton, and didn’t have question coming from any other religion representative but Christians, what substantial knowledge can a voter gain from this? Can there be an American president who does not go to Church every Sunday? Can there be a president who does not use God as their primary adviser? Can there be a really open minded president, or president who does not believe in God? What does that have to do with their leadership and management skills? Does it affect their diplomatic abilities? Is that how Americans are making their choices? Shouldn’t more credit be given to people’s intelligence? Frustrating!
But not everything was so sad. At least i now got my own favorite – former Alaska Senator, Mike Grave. He was the only man in the show who at least looked genuine. And that actually made sense. He is probably the only one who owes the least to his political surroundings. The man is towards the end of his career and does not have to dance the political dance as much as the others. This is probably the highest shot he is going to make and he has nothing to loose in terms of future prospects. He is saying what everybody else think. The only problem is that he wasn’t not given much opportunity to talk on that show. If there are any democrats reading this blog – i urge you – go vote Grave! All the candidates are saying the same, but he seems like the only one who can actually do something.
I keep on thinking and digesting what I’ve heard in the last couple of days. Thinking about politics, about society, and of course about the media. I still find it hard to express what is exactly out there that annoys me so much. What i can tell is that i am disturbed.
What do you think?