Presidential election season is both the best of times and the worst of times. It is a time when citizens display their patriotism for the land of the free while voting for candidates who promise to pass reforms that would make the country arguably less so; and when ideas are shared on how voters think they can alleviate the country’s problems and move forward towards a better tomorrow while also preserving traditional values. It is a time of hope, celebration, disappointment, and anger. However, most importantly, it illustrates how completely hopeless, spineless, and utterly lacking in conviction the electorate has the potential of being.
It is probably the worst on Super Tuesday, when most of the fringe candidates have their dreams crushed and pledge to support someone they were essentially calling the worst thing to happen to the country (second to Trump, of course) just a few months before.
Maybe that is a little harsh, but that doesn’t make the fact of the matter any less true. The democratic process brings to the surface some pretty unsettling truths about our society, media, and political system. Now, this isn’t going to be a long lecture about everything that is wrong with this process. I would need to write a novel to do that. The point is to bring to light one specific issue- the fact that we, as voters, aren’t thinking about whether or not this brighter future different candidates promise justifies the means by which they wish to achieve it. We’re just here to buy the end product.
There’s more to the election than what the candidate’s selling…
Politicians are salespeople. Likes salespeople, they convince you to buy into whatever it is they are selling by convincing you that you need their product: hope, change, an America that is great again, etc. Still don’t believe me? Let me explain further:
When a salesperson is trying to sell you their merchandise, they first shed light on a problem their potential customer, or you, has. This can be anything: tires that constantly go flat, cleaning products that don’t clean as well as they advertise, or your shirt that doesn’t compliment your body type as well as their shirt could. You might not even know that problem exists, but there is no need to worry because you have also been presented with a simple solution. All you have to do is buy their product, which in some cases, is allegedly better than the similar item you already have.
When a politician is trying to win your confidence, they will expound on problems whose existence you might not have considered and that they can solve better than anyone else in the field. Their health care plan plugs holes in the current system that you either haven’t noticed or haven’t adequately figured out how to solve; their tax plan will save you money you didn’t even realize or care that you were losing; their obscurely named and defined legislation on an equally questionable topic will undoubtedly change your world for the better, and all you have to do is give them your vote in return.
However, politicians don’t work alone. They utilize a variety of resources that will help make a sale on their positions, and in an age where television and social media are becoming the most popular forms of voter education, politicians can turn something intended to be purely informative into free advertisement.
What does Super Tuesday have to do with the media?
Existing news and media outlets play a big role in the election season. Voters get their information about candidates from second hand sources: online articles, podcasts, the nightly news, etc. Though there are legitimate reasons for this, this also presents another problem. Firstly, more people are able to manipulate the sales pitch to voters, sometimes shrouding the original message. Secondly, this turns the media into a salesperson in their own right, their job being to convince you that the only way you can become more educated is if you consume their product. Lastly, and most importantly, the media takes control, filters out what they deem unimportant, and creates the options for you. To them, it really doesn’t matter what you end up choosing: If you disagree with one article’s solution, they’ll be glad to sell you another. However, the idea still remains that they will always be a fundamental part in shaping your decision about what America’s better future could look like.
This motivation translates to powerful politics startlingly well. Voters learn about the issues in a controlled environment, and unless some outside influence happens to put a stray thought in their mind, what they know is from discussion with family or friends, is what they saw on TV, or read in print. The effects can be seen in the current election as Sanders supporters complain about the media blackout that convinces readers that their candidate isn’t really a viable option. In other words, mainstream media blinds viewers to other products and turn voters into bigger buyers of only a couple of candidates’ promises.
So, with the help of the media, presidential candidates are selling their version of the American Dream?
Yes. And Super Tuesday is an indicator of what the voters are buying. Successful candidates just completed a huge sale and probably have enough profits to continue what they’re doing, while the losers of the day are probably going to have to try selling something else.