This Sunday, I ignored the Sunday morning talk shows, opting instead to take a walk in one of our beautiful yet underfunded parks, filled with crumbling roads and dilapidated signs. I wondered who chose to cut federal funding on this park. I went online and checked the record. This may or may not affect my vote, but at least I have the information I need.
Hard information is easy to find these days. And yet increasingly, pundits will not even touch it.
Pundits would have us believe that we voters are a shallow bunch—that we voters choose our candidates based on likeability alone; that we hang on every word they utter; that their analysis of what every political candidate says (or fails to say) somehow influences our vote; that we are more swayed by a cute joke, a throw-away inspirational quote, or advice from endorsements rather than the actual issues. The majority of voters are smarter than that.
I’d like to think the decisions we make are complex, rational decisions based on our own belief systems, that we don’t let ourselves be bogged down by non-substantive analysis. I’d like to think the surprises we’ve seen over the last several primaries are proof of this—and that voters’ voices truly matter more than any pundit, talk show host, or super delegate ever will.
But making a truly informed decision is like being a detective these days. Although there is plenty of information out there in the form of congressional records, news reports, magazines, books, etc., we voters must also wade through a sea of clues that go nowhere, dead ends that turn up nothing but the same old commentary. We must endure the splashy “takes” on how a candidate fared in a debate; unending analysis about a candidate’s every word and mannerism, speech, tic, and facial expression; reports about hair-dos, ties, or pantsuit styles; questions about whether they’re too old or not likeable or tough enough; whether “tears” are not presidential enough; whether children should accompany their parent on the campaign trail; what a choice of spouse could mean; and what they did as teenagers.
As the death count in Iraq continued to rise, the pundits focused on the verbal sparring between McCain and Romney—and Hillary’s now famous tears. As thousands of uninsured voters continue to struggle daily without health insurance, we get treated to stories of Barack’s casual drug use in his college years. For the record: we don’t care.
Pundits are the new news astrologists foreseeing a politician’s future while eating up precious amounts of airtime. While they analyze a politician’s success or failure post-speech, or drone on about the zillionth poll, political ad, super delegate, or endorsement, I am still waiting to hear from them about the issues.
So I ask pundits everywhere: can’t you simply inform us? Why does drama continue to trump substance? For the record, until something changes, I’ll continue to opt for a Sunday morning walk rather than a Sunday morning talk show.