3.27.2008

question for people who say they hate u.s. campaigns

I have heard numerous people say they hate the US election campaigns, and that watching campaign coverage makes them angry, depressed, and disgusted. They decry the superficial media coverage, the lack of substantial issues, the mudslinging, the nitpicking, the lying... what have you.

Yet they continue to follow the campaigns.

When I say that I pay no attention to the US campaigns, folks are amazed - sometimes appalled, sometimes impressed, but always amazed. Supposedly this is a difficult state to achieve.

But it's not. It's been very easy.

So why do you continue doing something you hate?

Is it because you think the campaigns are important events, and it's your responsibility to follow them? I don't think the campaign itself is what's important. If you know how each candidate stands on any given issue, and his or her past voting record, the campaigns aren't going to tell you a whole lot more than that. Do you see it differently?

Is it because you want to know how the candidate stands with the public, what his or her chances are? Will that effect how you vote, or are you insatiably curious? And do you think you really learn that through the mainstream media?

Is it because you watch a lot of American television, so it's hard to avoid? You can make better choices with your time. Watch a movie. Read a book. Change the channel. If you get your news mainly through print or internet sources, it's even easier to avoid. You don't read every article anyway. Just put campaign coverage in the parts you filter.

If you enjoy political campaigns, that's a totally different story. Some people live for this stuff. That's cool. But if you hate it, why not just ignore it?

If you have an answer, please put it in comments, not email. Thanks!

29 comments:

Amy said...

I don't hate political campaigns per se, but I do hate aspects of them. I had the mud slinging, the personal attacks, the invasions of privacy, the nasty commercials. I do my best to ignore those. On the other hand, I do enjoy reading about the candidates' positions, watching the debates, and listening to some of the analysis by some of the "pundits."

Although I do believe that our system has corrupt elements and that too many people are disenfranchised and that money controls far too much of the process, I still care enough about the results to follow the campaigns and to vote for the candidate who I think is at least the lesser of two evils.

Although I know that there is little difference between the Dems and the Republicans on many issues and that even the Democrats will be unable to change much, there are areas where it really does make a difference. Gore and Kerry would not have appointed people like Roberts or Alito to the Supreme Court (and they are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the overall federal judiciary). For me, that alone is reason to vote for a Democrat. The courts in many ways have as big if not a bigger impact on our rights and on the lives of particular individuals than either Congress or the President. And by and large, the Democrats and those they appoint to the bench are less beholden to the Christian right and more likely to be pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-consumer, etc., than the Republicans and their selections have been.

James said...

The main reason (for me) is to get an idea of which goober is going to be forced on the rest of the world, so we know how to brace ourselves when it happens. Is it going to be the "I'm just like Bush, only more so! And I'm a maverick!" McCain, the "I wish I were tough like McCain" Clinton, or the "Sounds good, but we've been burned before" Obama?

That, and an optimistic but likely futile search for hope among the choices.

And the train-wreck "I can't believe they think this is a good system" factor.

James said...

Gore and Kerry would not have appointed people like Roberts or Alito to the Supreme Court (and they are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the overall federal judiciary). For me, that alone is reason to vote for a Democrat.

For that matter, I think it'd be worth voting Democrat just to stop the tide of "Heckuva Job" crony appointees to FEMA, NASA, EPA, &c.

(It didn't get as much coverage as Michael Brown, but at one point Bush appointed young (in his 20s) lackey to head NASA. His legacy included rewriting reports to insert "theory" after "Big Bang" in papers, promotion of intelligent design, and the suppression of reports on global climate change. He resigned in disgrace when it turned out that he'd lied about earning his degree.)

L-girl said...

I still care enough about the results to follow the campaigns and to vote for the candidate who I think is at least the lesser of two evils.

Tell me how following the campaign itself - as opposed to following the issues - does that. That's part of my question.

L-girl said...

Re Supreme Court, that used to be a huge argument of mine, too, to people who voted third-party. It's a valid argument, to an extent.

Through my work in the pro-choice movement, I discovered that it meant a lot less than I had previously thought.

Everyone talks about Roe v Wade still being intact, but the real damage has been done on the state level.

Don't forget, too, that it doesn't matter if I vote Democrat, third-party, or not at all. My vote would only count towards New York State's total, and New York State will go Democrat. So that gives me an opportunity to register a protest vote, against both parties. Amy is in the same situation, in Massachusetts.

If I had lived in a solid Republican state, it would similarly not matter.

If I lived in Ohio or Pennsylvania, I would be much more inclined to vote Democrat.

Let's not pretend all our votes are counted equally, even without fraud.

L-girl said...

PS the question still stands for anyone to whom it applies.

Amy said...

Following the campaigns for me means watching the debates, reading the paper, listening to interviews, etc. I am not sure how to separate that from following the issues. In this particular election year, I did not know much about the particular candidates' views beforehand, and I in fact did not decide who I supported until some time in January.

Now I follow the campaign because I care who wins, and I want to know what the public perceptions are of the candidates and what the pollsters and pundits are saying. I want to be able to respond to people who ask questions or make comments about the candidates. I also want a sense of how the candidate is doing in the polls and why.

Nigel Patel said...

I'm one of them that loves the campaigns. (could be that I grew up hating sports and needed a similar outlet?)

And I'm totally cynical. It was actually hard for me to let go of Hillary because I want to watch her make the other side cry.
But I don't watch on TV, just NPR in the vehicle at work.

redsock said...

I had the mud slinging, the personal attacks, the invasions of privacy, the nasty commercials.

This doesn't answer L's question, but I hate that pointing out 100% verifiable facts about a candidate's record that said candidate would rather not have publicly discussed because it makes him/her look bad now constitues a "personal attack".

Saying anything more negative than "my opponent is a wonderful human being who loves puppies" gets tagged as a personal attack.

Amy said...

The electoral college is by design an incredibly conservative system ---conservative not necessarily in the left-right sense, but in the sense of preserving the status quo. The founders wanted to water down the ability of the masses to control election outcomes. Also, since the country was formed as a combination of separate states, there was a desire to maintain some power in those states. (Same reason there are only two Senators per state regardless of population.) I think that in 2008 that system is totally out of whack with reality, though there are obviously many who still argue for states' rights---in part, exactly to accomplish what has happened with abortion rights and now with gay marriage---to prevent national laws that are more progressive.

L-girl said...

The electoral college is by design an incredibly conservative system ---conservative not necessarily in the left-right sense, but in the sense of preserving the status quo. The founders wanted to water down the ability of the masses to control election outcomes.

Well, yes. I think everyone here understands its roots. I'm just pointing out what I see as a fallacy of "it's important that we vote Democrat becaause..."

Amy said...

The personal attacks that anger me are not when a candidate simply points out factual matters about another candidate that are relevant to the campaign, e.g., that Hillary voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq. What angers me is using relatively irrelevant information just to smear a candidate---like the swift boating of Kerry in 2004 or spreading stories about a candidate's drug use in college or some sexual exploit that occurred years before (or for me, even currently--who cares??). That information may be "factual," but does it really have any relevance? Does it have any value other than to shed some negative light on a candidate just to distract the voters from the relevant issues?

L-girl said...

Following the campaigns for me means watching the debates, reading the paper, listening to interviews, etc. I am not sure how to separate that from following the issues.

For me, the two are totally separate.

One is learning about issues.

The other is following the campaign itself, for its own sake, as a "horserace", as the saying goes. What strategy the candidate is taking, how the candidate is responding to attacks, how popular s/he is, what polls said about this speech or this ad.

You've also said that you don't hate it per se, so the question is probably not aimed at you. I'm hearing from so many people who feel seriously oppressed and depressed from the campaigns - but continue to watch. We'll see if any of them weigh in. :)

L-girl said...

but I hate that pointing out 100% verifiable facts about a candidate's record that said candidate would rather not have publicly discussed because it makes him/her look bad now constitues a "personal attack".

I agree. I remember during a hotly contested election in the National Writers Union, people were decrying the so-called negative campaigning. All it was was the challenger's perspective on the incumbent's record. As if a challenger could possibly run an honest campaign without addressing that!

The incumbent's supporters tried to drown out the facts in a sea of "stop negative campaigning" rhetoric.

Amy said...

I wasn't trying to be pedantic about the electoral college---wasn't sure whether your Canadian readers would know that background. Maybe I underestimate the Canadians, but since I know nothing about the Canadian electoral system, I sort of assumed Canadians might know little about ours.

Your larger point is true, of course. I could vote for Donald Duck, and my vote would be meaningless because of the electoral college.

L-girl said...

What angers me is using relatively irrelevant information just to smear a candidate---like the swift boating of Kerry in 2004

That wasn't irrelevant - it was a flat-out lie. Had it been truthful, it would have been relevant, because it would have meant Kerry would have been lying about his war record. Instead, the media treated unsubstantiated allegations as facts, and went from there. While his opponent had lied to get out of service, deserted service, was a former drug addict...

Apart from that, I see the distinction, and it's an important one.

L-girl said...

wasn't sure whether your Canadian readers would know that background. Maybe I underestimate the Canadians, but since I know nothing about the Canadian electoral system, I sort of assumed Canadians might know little about ours.

Heh. Nope, they know as much as we do. More than most Americans. Canadians - at least the ones who comment on this blog! - follow US politics, because they understand how much it effects them. Maybe not only for that reason, but that's certainly part of it.

Also, Canadian politics are not covered in the US, but US politics are heavily covered in Canada.

I could vote for Donald Duck, and my vote would be meaningless because of the electoral college.

I frequently remind folks of that, when they are angry that I am not voting Dem. My mom was ready to burst a blood vessel thinking of Allan and I voting for Nader. I had to constantly tell her, don't worry, NYS will end up with the same result, with or without me.

L-girl said...

I'm one of them that loves the campaigns.

I didn't know that! That's cool. Especially through NPR. That is more fun.

impudent strumpet said...

How do you avoid it though? They're SO LOUD! (Are they going to keep up like this straight through until November?) And even in Canadian news sources, it's always like the second thing in the news so you can't just turn it off because you want to hear the rest of the news. I'm deliberately ignoring it until they know who the actual candidates for the real election will be, and I still get something every day.

Sometimes I think they're just attention whores, with so many states and so many primaries and whatever those other thingies are, so they can go HEY LOOK AT US VERY IMPORTANT ELECTION every single day for a whole year.

L-girl said...

How do you avoid it though? They're SO LOUD!

It's funny, everyone asks me that. I just avoid it. Period.

(Are they going to keep up like this straight through until November?)

Oh yes! Plus since presumably the winner will want to get re-elected, for four years after that.

Half-joking, but only half. One of the many things that turned me off Bill Clinton was that he campaigned from his inauguration to his re-election.

And even in Canadian news sources, it's always like the second thing in the news so you can't just turn it off because you want to hear the rest of the news.

I guess some of my easy avoidance is a function of almost all of my news coming from print or internet sources. I watch some of The National, but not the segments on the US election. But I don't listen to the radio or watch any other TV news. So that helps.

They are loud. But the sound can't follow you to the next website. :)

Lone Primate said...

But if you hate it, why not just ignore it?

How? I don't follow the campaign; to me, it's pointless. Right now, whoever gets in, the war's going to continue, corporations will get their way, the death penalty will remain, health care will remain a private industry, and the Religious Right will continue to use money and calumnies to limit the rights of anyone other than themselves.

But the media, even in other countries, keep shoving this in our faces. And it never bloody ends. It goes on, and on, and on, and on, month after month after month. The same speeches, the same talking points, the same tired rhetoric rehashed from Reagan's feel-good nonsense on down... except this week in Tulsa instead of last week in Peoria. It drags on so long that eventually it gets down to babble about pouring water on Hilary so she melts and trying to get the portrait of Obama as a jihadist Black Panther to gel and stick. It's awful.

These US presidential campaigns are a lot like being tied to a chair for 18 months and being force-fed pecan pie. The first slice is exciting and delicious. But it pretty quickly gets nauseating. And then you reflect that, cripes, we still have eight months to go...

Why the United States feels the need to drag this out over roughly a year and a half, every four years — and consider it praiseworthy — escapes me. And why it has to be done over and over and over in fifty different states makes no sense to me. Why can't the US do what every other mature democracy does, and simply hold a large convention in some major city after a campaign of a month or so and let the members of the respective parties choose who will lead them, based on their stands on issues, not over middle names and witchy jokes? This would be of particular value when one of the contenders is still in the White House, with a real job to do (or at least, to pretend to be doing). But no... you can't even find refuge on the BBC. Even they feel obliged to inform you of what meaningless, pointless snide comment was aimed at which candidate by another.

Tell me, please, how does one avoid this without unplugging the TV, the computer, the radio? Is there some dimension I can go where a US presidential campaign is brief and to the point, and I can follow it to its conclusion without feeling bored and fed up with the process by the Christmas prior to the election?

L-girl said...

Tell me, please, how does one avoid this without unplugging the TV, the computer, the radio?

I find it very easy.

I get my news almost entirely from print and internet sources, so I have (and you have, too) complete control over what you read. I don't click on any campaign-related story. Period.

I do watch some of The National and BBC News, but when US campaign news come on, I change the channel, or mute it until the story is done.

It's very simple. I can't block out all of it, but 90% does a good job. Lowers the volume considerably.

Try it for a week. Make a resolution and see how you can do. You might find it's easier than you think.

Lone Primate said...

I don't see why I should have to change. The United States should just follow my advice. :)

M@ said...

Canadians - at least the ones who comment on this blog! - follow US politics, because they understand how much it effects them. Maybe not only for that reason, but that's certainly part of it.

It is indeed. But if I come across something -- say, an article or wikipedia page or something -- that explains how another country's political system works, I'm fascinated by that, too. I'm not sure what it is that creates that interest, it's just there.

And that interest, coupled with the almost direct effect of their politics on Canada, makes US politics of great interest to me. (That interest has ratcheted up in the last few years, obviously.)

I don't follow the horserace (the predictions, personalities, etc etc), but US politics in general. I doubt I read more now than I did, say, two years ago.

I guess one little aspect of fascination is I'm wondering if the US public will allow a third GOP win. I kind of can't believe they will but I've been wrong before. So there's the train wreck effect, too.

Train wrecks do, I imagine, lose their fascination if you've been in one, or if someone you know is on the train.

L-girl said...

I guess one little aspect of fascination is I'm wondering if the US public will allow a third GOP win.

There you go again, acting like they have a choice.

Train wrecks do, I imagine, lose their fascination if you've been in one, or if someone you know is on the train.

Bingo.

M@ said...

There you go again, acting like they have a choice.

I think I'm pretty well-informed about how illegitimate US elections are. And I am sure that Bush wasn't elected, either time. But the fact that it was close enough to steal in 2000 is remarkable. The fact that there were any red states in 2004 is astounding. It's a part of the US culture that I simply cannot comprehend.

The fact that a republican could win in 2008 is nothing short of shocking. And yet, I am fully aware, it can and very well might happen.

And I'm not seeing the Democrats as saviours -- you and some other sources have done a good job of disabusing me of that notion. But after seeing the effects of eight years of Bush rule, I can't help but feel that at least the Dems would slow the decline, if only a little.

impudent strumpet said...

Actually I don't follow US politics because it affects me. I haven't ever been in a position where I can make a decision whether to follow it or not. I know about it because it's so loud I can't not follow it. It's always in Canadian news and people are always blogging about it and it turns up on non-political sites that happen to be american or that have a lot of american posters, so it's just omnipresent.

It's like how I know that Angelina Jolie is with Brad Pitt and is pregnant and they have several children, most of whom are adopted, and one is named Maddox and one is named Shiloh. I never sought out this information, but I seem to have it anyway.

Similarly, I know there's Hilary Clinton and people dis her for wearing pantsuits and there's Barack Obama and he just made some big speech about race and John McCain has unofficially won the republican side and there was a guy named Huckabee but he's gone now and there was some other guy named Ron Paul and people liked him for weird reasons.

And that's with actually making an effort to avoid US politics. Several years ago, I realized I knew way more about US politics than about Canadian politics, so I deliberately stopped consuming US news media. And yet I've still picked up enough from the ether that I could easily cross the border and lower my vowels and pass for a not-entirely-ignorant American. I'd never pass for a political junkie, but I could probably get by without inspiring people to institute a knowledge test as a prerequisite to voting.

L-girl said...

I think I'm pretty well-informed about how illegitimate US elections are. And I am sure that Bush wasn't elected, either time.

Hurrah.

Seriously. I hurrah that.

But the fact that it was close enough to steal in 2000 is remarkable.

I concur.

It's a part of the US culture that I simply cannot comprehend.

Me neither.

L-girl said...

Actually I don't follow US politics because it affects me. I haven't ever been in a position where I can make a decision whether to follow it or not. I know about it because it's so loud I can't not follow it.

Huh. Yet tons of Canadians and Americans don't follow the politics of either country. Most of the people I work with don't know squat about what's going on anywhere.

It's like how I know that Angelina Jolie is with Brad Pitt and is pregnant and they have several children, most of whom are adopted, and one is named Maddox and one is named Shiloh. I never sought out this information, but I seem to have it anyway.

I don't get it.

I don't know any of those things, other than that Jolie and Pitt are a couple, and I have to think about that, I'd be guessing if I had to answer a question about it. I definitely don't know anything about their procreation.

I find it incredibly easy to stay away from this knowledge. I'm not even aware of the effort.

Similarly, I know there's Hilary Clinton and people dis her for wearing pantsuits and there's Barack Obama and he just made some big speech about race and John McCain has unofficially won the republican side and there was a guy named Huckabee but he's gone now and there was some other guy named Ron Paul and people liked him for weird reasons.

OK, I do know those things. But that's not a lot, it's the bare bones outline. So if that's the extent of the knowledge (and I'm not saying it is), I would still consider it not knowing anything.

So maybe it's a matter of degree.

But I definitely don't know any celebrity gossip.