History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen
The 2016 campaign is well on its way with just days before the Iowa caucuses. It seems like more people are interested in this race or in politics in general, than before. It’s no secret that non-establishment candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have created a buzz for people that may otherwise not be interested in politics.
Or maybe it’s more than that. It’s no secret the political news networks like MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN are blowing away the “traditional” news networks of NBC, CBS, and ABC. Obviously MSNBC and Fox News have agendas, which people love to lament as networks that “brainwash” people with partisan “propaganda” and maybe that is partly true but when stories are cross referenced with other sources they can prove to be a great tool for sparking interest in politics.
Let’s face it. Politics on its surface is boring. The consequences are enormous but the actual act of governing is a snooze fest. There have been photographs of law makers asleep on the job, or playing on their phones during a committee hearing. Making laws are tedious and slow. Most politics is inconsequential. Naming official birds, or purposeless holidays, providing funding for bureaucratic organizations, and just the other important but monotonous tasks of keeping a state or the country going. Not to mention all the fundraising that has to go on just to maintain your position…to fund raise more in another couple years.
However, these networks, as tilted as they may be do provide a type of entertainment. They highlight the “exciting” aspects of politics. The battlegrounds, the debates, the ramifications of certain policies. They are doing very well with political theater. If people wanted raw politics then they’d be hooked on CSPAN…which most people are not. Political analysis of how candidates are doing and why certain people should or shouldn’t be elected plays out like a real life drama.
I’ve often attributed my political awakening to when I was 17 and came across a CNN special called “Sun Down Towns.” These are towns where it is not safe for African Americans to be out when the sun goes down. This woke me up to a social injustice I thought was from a bygone era but still were prevalent in the 21st century. If I had never seen that special I may not have been interested to see what else CNN was talking about and thus never interested in politics and it pays off.
It always pays off to be interested in politics than apathetic. A citizenry that understands what is happening with their governance (or not happening) is bound to act rather than allow it to persist, and now it has finally come to a head. These political theater shows have never before seen popularity and we have citizenry that is upset with a multitude on issues and candidates on both sides that do not talk like cookie cutter Democrats or Republicans. The reason why they’re doing so well is because politics is changing. Now it may change back if these fringe candidates are unsuccessful once they win the White House (and one of them WILL win) and its exciting for even the casual political observer.
I’ve said to friends that the GOP primary is my favorite reality TV show. Not being right-wing leaning I’m enthralled in the weirdness of it all. Instead of the traditional dance of scooting closer and closer to the right than coming back to center during the general election, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have turned the rhetoric to an 11. Leaving the traditional candidates befuddled. Sanders is doing a similar tactic on the left, leaving Hillary Clinton from the preordained nominee to being down in all the early states and fighting for her political life.
Some may scoff at politics being belittled to a theatrical performance and see news mixed with entertainment as misleading, but what I see them as a net gain. If theater gets people interested in how they are being governed then great. Political commentary should not be confused with impartial news, so as long as people don’t take a mouth piece’s word as gospel, then there’s nothing wrong if it gets people excited. No one turn’s on fox news and expects to hear an unfiltered view of the news. They expect to hear a conservatives take on it.
I know this is a far cry from my usual jaded view but hey maybe 2016 will have record voting numbers and be the year of the people?