To the Media: Give Us Substance, Not a Circus
I was going to hold off publishing my column for this Wednesday, but the betrayal of America by Fox News is so profound in hosting a debate for their own ratings and using the candidates like they were reality show contestants, I had to post it early.
All the debate did was attract 24 million viewers to see Donald Trump zing Megyn Kelly, Brett Baier, and Chris Wallace, while the other candidates languished waiting for a question like dogs begging for a treat.
It’s disgusting and counterproductive.
Did you watch the GOP candidate debate last Thursday? I did.
I didn’t just watch it, I watched it along with nearly 1,000 other people at the RedState Gathering in a hotel ballroom in Atlanta. By listening to the crowd, you wouldn’t be able to discern a difference between political debate-watching and a Georgia Bulldogs game—there was cheering and booing, and it wasn’t even football season.
Actually Fox News hosted two debates: one for the “second tier” candidates, and one for the “headliners.” A two-hour show, finely produced down to the minute and lines spoken by the three moderators, amounted to little more than an episode of “Deadliest Catch,” applied to politics. There was plenty of entertainment, conflict and comedy, but little substance, and at the end, all the candidates thought they won.
This is indicative of what our political process has become. I was in a room full of politically engaged, substantially informed voters who paid a few hundred dollars to be present, and we all cheered like fanboys when Sen. Ted Cruz promised to repeal every one of President Obama’s executive orders on his first day in office. We all laughed at the best joke of the night, when Dr. Ben Carson said “I’m the only one who has removed half a brain, but if you went to Washington, you’d think someone beat me to it.”
In short, we were entertained. And that’s what politics has become: entertainment.
That’s why Donald Trump has gained so much traction lately. Now I think Trump has touched on ideas that Americans understand—he’s a got a good ear and a good sense of what people want to hear. But nobody really thinks a potential “President Trump” is going to build a wall on our southern border with Mexico and have Mexico pay for it (what about tunnels, Mr. Trump?), or simply “take” oil from repressive Middle Eastern terror states. (If you think that, you might want to evaluate your commitment to democracy and the rule of law).
Trump’s real message is “I have a lot of money. You really wish you were me, don’t you?” He follows that up with “look what I’ve done” and a whole lot of Archie Bunker-style chutzpah. Sure, political correctness has gone crazy and turned our college campuses (and media) into minefields. But does that mean you can get away with making bawdy, sexist statements, and pass them off as jokes by saying “Only Rosie O’Donnell” when questioned?
I don’t want to simply bash Mr. Trump, but he’s the exemplar of our new political-entertainment system. Voters aren’t interested in substance. From what the media serves up, it’s obvious we only want to hear zingers and hyperbole.
Granted, we are still 15 months away from the day we elect a new president, but our problems weren’t created by a lack of sound bites and one-liners, and they won’t be solved by ear-tickling words. The majority of the GOP candidates have solid credentials. Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Rick Perry are either sitting or former governors. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are serving senators. Cruz is a brilliant attorney, Ben Carson is a neurosurgeon, and Carly Fiorina was CEO of the 17th largest company in the Fortune 500.
The candidates (Democrats included) have invested their lives to be the best at what they do, and ultimately one of this small group’s ideals and policies will become the official policy of the United States of America.
As voters, we need to respect the fact that our country belongs to us, not the government. It matters who we vote for, and it matters what ideals the people we vote for espouse. Elections have consequences, and Americans should demand that the media and candidates give us substance, not a circus.
(column for Houston Home Journal, Aug 12, 2015)
This post appeared on SGBerman