Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cynical politics? Mea culpa

Politico has an interesting and pretty fair piece about how the 2008 presidential campaign has turned into politics-as-usual, despite early promises of a clean and post-partisan campaign. The authors blame both candidates for being unimaginative and misleading, and they blame the media for focusing on shallow trivialities. Joe Klein similarly bemoans the political lies in the Sept. 29 issue of Time, although he places most of the blame on McCain (as many journalists have done).

I agree that the media and the politicians are indeed responsible for shallow and cynical politics, but I also want to point the finger at us. It's all of our faults, because we are by and large "low information" voters. It's my own fault as an educator. Politicians deceive and distract us, and they repeat simplistic campaign slogans, because that's what persuades us. We don't take the time to look into their proposals and records, and we don't give ourselves the tools to estimate whether a candidate will perform well. So we simply don't reward good political behavior and nuanced media coverage.

It's a mutually reinforcing cycle, but in a very real sense, we get the kind of politics and politicians we collectively deserve.

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