By KIRA EDISON ’20
Policy. There was a time that this was the center and backbone of presidential elections, not an unheard of and majestic idea buried in a treasure chest underneath a mountain of scandals and personal attacks. There was a time when policy was important, valued, and respected. The times have changed.
The 2016 Presidential Election has been an unprecedented story of political battles, drama, and bumps in the road that have drastically altered the demeanor and mood of Americans’ politics. This election season, America has heard about emails, international hacking, rapists, criminals, a wall, tax returns, and most recently, some harsh “locker room talk.” This is a presidential election unlike any other, and the coverage of the election season is better described as a soap opera than news.
In 2012, media coverage of mass shootings and gun violence overshadowed the presidential election between Mitt Romney and President Obama. People were concerned with gun safety and second amendment policies. Keyword: policy.
In 2016, the media has shifted the focus of politics away from policy and into a dramatic television narrative, with a grand finale the week of Nov. 8. The latest episode, aired on the NBC News website on Oct. 15, features “All the Allegations Women Have Made Against Trump,” “Another Woman Accuses Trump of Unwanted Kissing,” and “What the Latest Clinton Hacked Emails Tell Us.” The dramatic show, “Election 2016,” can only be referred to as a train-wreck: it’s horrifying, clearly going to end poorly, and affects many, but you simply can’t look away.
Media has treated the election of 2016 in a manner that encourages voters to brush off the importance of solid, equitable, effective policy, and instead focus their attention on the personal lives and faults of the presidential candidates. I will not disregard that personal character and merit are important factors to consider for the President of the United States, but it is imperative for voters to acknowledge that policy plans are what alter this country in a positive or negative manner. Exclaiming, “but what about her emails” for the thousandth time is not improving the unemployment rate, international relations, or gun safety. The media, however, fails to acknowledge that a plan is a necessary requirement to be Commander in Chief.
Donald Trump stated, “Let’s face it, we’re living in the real world. This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues that we are facing today.” Keeping in mind that Trump made this statement in an attempt to apologize for lewd comments, I can surprisingly agree with him –– to an extent –– when this statement is applied to the medias choices of top news stories.
The media has transformed the political atmosphere into one where scandal is always being conjured up from the past and dropped in the public’s lap. This drama has overshadowed policy and redefined politics. Unfortunately, the constant regurgitation of old scandals that have been extensively covered and evaluated is a distraction from the “important issues that we are facing today,” such as gun rights, police brutality, voting rights, and immigration policy. When political scandal is fresh and new to the public, it is relevant and should be considered. However the media has turned the need from consideration of scandal into an obsession with scandal.
The media must find a balance between reporting on political drama and reporting on political policy. However, the balance should tip toward policy. It is imperative that the elections of public representatives maintain integrity and not be transformed into an outlet for insults. The media needs to facilitate debates, inform voters and create web traffic about “Donald Trump’s tax plan,” or “Clinton’s plan for fixing infrastructure,” instead of click-baiting the public with headlines of “bigly” and “Alicia Mechado.”
Media is a relevant and important portion of the lives of so many voters, and it is essential to the success of our country that they properly inform voters about what matters. We have been informed about who we can vote for. Donald Trump: Republican, businessman, “tells it like it is,” speculated sexist, commonly referred to as a bigot, possibly fraudulent with taxes, and will “Make America Great Again.” We also have the option of Hillary Clinton: Democrat, experienced politician, married to an impeached –– but not convicted –– former president, careless with confidential emails, “Killary.” The media has provided us with identities –– justified or not –– of each candidate, but has failed to inform us on what we are voting for.
You may fill in the bubble on Nov. 8 for Trump, Clinton, Stein, or Johnson and know who you are voting for, but don’t let the media blind you to the importance of what you are voting for. With each candidate, you are voting for policy, with each policy you are voting for a plan, and with each plan you are voting for your future. Do not let the media prevent you from choosing wisely.
By KIRA EDISON ’20