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In less than a month, the primary elections season for the Republican party will begin. It does not appear that President Obama will be facing any sort of primary challenge for his nomination. Most of those who pay attention to this dirty business agree that he’d claim the nomination, the question is would he claim it as a stronger candidate or horribly weakened? Personally, as a citizen, I hope he doesn’t face a challenger because he also has to go about handling the business of the country. It feels like the Republicans have been campaigning for years, holding debates like weekly television shows. Yet, what remains to be seen is how this will affect their voter-turnouts.
The omnipresence of this campaign season has allowed the American voter to spend a long time just eyeing the candidates, taking the measure of the men and woman on the stage because as they spend more time on camera their individual façades flicker and sometimes fade so that the person behind the politician emerges. This happened in a CNN-sponsored debate when after Texas Governor Rick Perry (then-frontrunner in the polls) attacked Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (always a consistent second in the polls) for hiring a company that utilizes undocumented workers. Romney, in a thirty-second response, said that he went to the company when he learned about this and said, “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.” An inartful, but honest response during a heated moment brought about prolonged media exposure.
In the most recent debate, current frontrunner, Newt Gingrich has made a career as a writer, speaker, and intellectual, since leaving Congress, where he was Speaker of the House. He has said a number of wildly hypothetical things, one of which is that the moon should be mined for minerals. Romney attacked this idea as a real platform of Candidate Gingrich at an ABC News/Yahoo! sponsored debate in Iowa. Gingrich became visibly annoyed and then also dropped character for a minute claiming that the only reason Romney could tout his experience in the private sector is because he is a failed career politician. Attacking his electability.
Looking at the political dog-race from a macro-perspective, the Republican Party has been remarkably unified since their defeat in 2008. In the on-set of the Administration, Conservative mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh said that if Obama fails, conservatives win. While Limbaugh doesn’t run the party, he does run a media empire that reaches many of those people who vote for Republicans and thus sometimes his nonsense carries weight. Also, the media on the left, such as US Army veteran Markos Moulitsas, founder of The Daily Kos, have been greatly disappointed by the President, that may result in less grassroots success than he enjoyed in 2008. With a solid nominee, the Republicans have a real shot at victory.
And therein lays their problem. The field of candidates for the Republicans has been at best lackluster and at worst absurd. Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, and Herman Cain have all exploited the media attention and relaxed regulations on campaign donations into an opportunity to fund a publicity tour. All of them are woefully ill-informed on the realities of complex issues. They are designed by the 24-hour, soundbite-focused media narrative that fuels cable news. And for cable news, print media, and blogs, campaigns are big business, because people tend to pay attention.
It is difficult for people to keep up, especially when manipulation is part of the system. After debates, reporters descend on what is unabashedly called “The Spin Room,” where campaign strategists deliver carefully crafted responses that are repeated on-the-air under the guise of analysis or professional insight. Candidates themselves speak in an almost indecipherable mish-mash of talking points, clichés, and nonsense. Couple this with an overabundance of coverage, voters just end up disinterested in the whole damn thing. Disinterest can be deadly. It is as equally important to be informed, to peer through the peals and rumblings of thunder, the flashes of lightning, and know for whom or what one votes. As the primary season unfolds, we will keep a watchful eye on the election, especially with regard to veteran issues.