Courier Herald column for the week of July 16th:
It’s summer. Most of you, hopefully, are doing summery things. What most people aren’t doing is spending every waking moment obsessing who will be elected President 17 months from now.
Political operatives and the press that cover them aren’t most people. They’re part of an industry, and now this industry never sleeps. The rise of 24-hour cable news networks, followed by the even more instantaneous responses from social media channels, merged the industries of politics and entertainment. This created a beast that must be fed – even when little to nothing is going on.
It is during slow times such as this that punditry requires creating news as much as analyzing it. It is a time where you, the consumer, are mostly busy doing other things.
You should be on guard for the various think-pieces and “what-if” scenarios brought about by those who are must say something new to be relevant. Some just sense that you are bored with the mid-season filler updates on campaigns that announced to flourishes (or duds) months ago, but have many more months to go before the first votes are cast.
They know that those who follow politics (often without even realizing it) for entertainment value grow tired and restless easily. Consumers always want something new and shiny. Even though the public facing strategies of most campaigns haven’t even been launched yet, they sense that something new and fresh is warranted.
It’s with this backdrop that we can expect a rash of “third party candidate” stories. It happens at this time, every presidential cycle. There is even more oxygen given to this scenario this year because the two party’s front runners are brittle dry kindling, just waiting for the right spark to ignite this fire.
Never in the history of our Republic have the two party standard bearers had such low favorability ratings. Inertia, combined with years of ignoring the faults of our own party’s nominees by pretending the faults of the other immunize them.
We’ve now reached the logical conclusion of this path where neither front runner is liked by a majority of potential voters. We’re literally being asked at this point which candidate we dislike the least.
The third party candidate idea is the trial balloon that always purports to fix this problem. The political group “No Labels” is here to feed our summer doldrums with a poll demonstrating that a “moderate independent” could enter the race with a starting position of more than one in five voters. In the swing state of Arizona, that margin increases to more than one in four.
That’s bait for the egos of would be saviors to enter the race. The problem, of course, is when you attach any name to replace “moderate independent” you immediately get the record – and associated baggage – of that person. Remember Ross Perot. Once named, this mythical blank slate is filled, and the divided electorate divides even further on this hero in waiting.
It’s like you’re trying to get your partner to pick a restaurant and says they’ll eat anywhere. You name a place, and they say “oh…except there.” Some people just don’t want to make a decision. Many of those same people want to complain but take no responsibilities for the decisions that are made.
Given that we’re six months away from the very first primary votes being cast, the choices in these polls are completely costless. A fickle decision today has no bearing on votes cast months from now, after the campaigns that are just now being constructed have begun to execute their plans. Most public polls taken right now serve to fill the entertainment industry, and should not be taken as a prognostication for electoral success.
Beyond the third party candidate stories, there’s also a rush to declare campaigns over. Again, most campaigns haven’t even started in earnest yet, save for the ground work in a few early primary caucus states. Too many report on campaigns as if they’re a soap opera (fun fact: many actually are), but every Friday’s cliffhanger doesn’t mean the major character won’t be back next week with a different story line.
The voters just aren’t paying attention to every backroom twist and turn right now. Nor should they be.
We have a long way to go before the “campaign” part of this election even begins. For those of you not actively involved, best to tune out most of the noise. Soon school will be back in session, the weather will turn cooler, and the time to focus on summery things will be over.
Have your summer now, while you can. The march to choose between two unliked candidates will continue for now, until the calendar turns and we’ll have primaries to determine if the parties will offer better choices.