Green River Star -

Our View: Too much theater in politics


While political attacks can be traced back to the earliest days of the Republic, one line that has become blurred more recently is the difference between politics and theater.

In 2016, politics can be seen as another form of entertainment, as the aesthetics used to produce compelling and memorable television are applied to the political arena. How else can one explain how a business mogul and reality TV star became the presumptive GOP nominee for President of the United States?

While public appearances have always been a part of the political process, it wasn’t until television became more prevalent in American homes that more attention was paid to the actual appearance of the candidates. One of the most notable examples is during the first televised debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy on Sept. 26, 1960. Those watching considered Kennedy the winner, as he appeared better groomed and healthier than Nixon, who had just been released from the hospital and arrived at the debate in a wrinkled suit and sported a light beard. However, Nixon’s comments during that debate were better than Kennedy’s and those listening to the debate considered Nixon to have the advantage.

The natural evolution of this has resulted in televised debates becoming packaged more as spectator sport than an exchange to sway voters based on important issues. The opening sequences to those debates feature quick shots of the candidates with serious expressions on their faces, combined with their memorable statements. They walk out, impeccably dressed, to a well-lit and lavishly-designed stage, courtesy of the network producing the debate.

The candidates become nothing more than actors reciting well-rehearsed lines designed to attract attention rather than discuss the real issues facing the country. Slogans from candidates saying they will “Make America Great Again” or provide “A Future to Believe In” don’t say much about what a candidate will actually do, but are easy to rally behind and quickly hashtagged and shared online.

In the end, while political attacks aren’t anything new, the increasing of appearance and theatrics in political discourse is something we should worry about. As can be seen with the Brexit vote in Britain, emotional appeals will win elections, but can cost a nation dearly as a result. By leaving the European Union, Britain will lose out on benefits like easy trade amongst other EU members and will likely impact the British economy.

Choosing a President on how well they present themselves on TV can hurt our nation just as much.


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