2012 Election: The Gaffe

As you may have heard, this guy is running for President again:

It will almost certainly be one of the four people in positions three through six below who will run against him:

It’s not looking like it will be easy for Obama. Incumbents usually win, but there are exceptions. The chief being that Presidents who have presided over a recession whose effects are still being felt usually lose. But there are also exceptions to that. Nate Silver, who is just about the most canny analyst out there, is putting the current odds of Obama being re-elected at roughly 50/50. However, I’m not here, at least today, to discuss his chances. I’m sure I’ll get around to that eventually, since presidential election seasons are to me what the football season is to the average American male. What I want to talk about today is the gaffe.

You know the one. Somebody says or does something a little silly. Maybe a lot silly. Rides in a tank and looks goofy. Gives a hoarse yell at a rally. Makes a comments that seems slightly pro-something they claim to be anti. Then it gets covered ad nauseam. In fact, this kind of moment will be what quite a lot of the presidential coverage ends up being about. Versus, say, a candidate’s policy positions. Their actual record of achievement, or lack thereof. The truthfullness of claims they make.

Because those things require time to report about, and time to listen to or read about. And some thought and concentration to actually follow. And the American attention-span has become more and more fragmented by each new media that has come along. It’s a little funny, since media bandwidth has exponeentially increased. But the average content of a single communication seems to decrease inversely, as more and more signals rush in to fill the bandwidth. Think of newspapers versus radio versus television versus the Internet circa 2000 versus social media now, and I think you’ll see what I mean.

So it is perhaps inevitable that short incidents with some entertainment value (i.e. “the gaffe”) will triumph over substance. But I don’t think it can be good for us as a Republic. Who out there wants to commit with me to try to ignore the gaffe and concentrate on the substance this go-around?   


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