Friday, October 5, 2007
The Electorate Grows Up
Disgruntled media, including bloggers, have expressed contempt lately for the significance of election-year polls as the latest Washington Post-ABC readout shows Hillary Clinton steadily gaining momentum. Adding insult to injury, her campaign just announced fundraising success last quarter outpacing Obama.
The polls, however, are saying as much about the maturity of the American people as they are about Hillary Clinton. Apparently, we’ve grown up sufficiently to avoid the mistakes of 2000 and 2004 when we twice chose charm (so-called likeability) over substance (leadership ability) and wound up with a period that will go down in history as the Era of Bush Incompetence.
We’ve learned the hard way that someone you’d enjoy hanging out with in a bar isn’t necessarily even trustworthy, much less presidential material.
Our lessons, however, have been hard won, and as Ellen Goodman points out in Truthdig, political writers, in particular, are of little help.
She notes: '“All summer the story line was Hillary Clinton’s steady-as-you-go campaign. After one debate or another, she was described as ‘commanding,’ ‘knowledgeable,’ ‘experienced.’ Now even Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson are pleading their case for the Republican nomination on the claim that they alone can beat Hillary.”’
But Goodman continues: '“Thus we now enter the season when the journalistic pack, including those who rail against pack journalism, howls in anxiety at the prospect of a front-runner loping to the finish line. The colors are changing and the headlines are, too. They now read: ‘Can Clinton Be Stopped?’ ‘Can Clinton’s ‘Inevitability’ Be Erased?’ “How to Stop Hillary.’ And ‘Clinton Leads Now, But Race Isn’t Over.’"
One would think stopping Clinton is more critical to the journalistic pack’s survival than rousing their readers to earnest discussion of issues that matter.
But to our credit, an attitude of sobriety hovers over prospective voters as we weigh the qualifications of the various candidates. We want change, but we are first of all concerned to elect a president with the experience necessary to repair the damage to our nation this administration will leave behind. We understand the scope of the damage will go far beyond Bush’s catastrophic misadventure in Iraq; America will be picking up the pieces for years to come.
Considering all that’s at stake in this presidential election, it doesn’t seem too much to ask of the media to attend to the public mood and focus on important policy matters instead of placing full-length articles in our major newspapers on John Edwards’s hairstyle or Hillary Clinton’s laughter.
I’m reminded of an old saying: “There go my people. I must hurry and catch up with them for I am their leader.”
Maybe it’s time for the media to catch up with the American people’s increasing level of maturity.