The front page of the Jan. 7 edition of The New York Times, features two large pictures, one of John McCain campaigning in New Hampshire and the other of Bill Clinton campaigning for Hillary Clinton in the same state. The Times presents McCain as riding somewhat of an under-funded, sinking ship of a campaign. The article on Bill's bid for his wife's speculates on what his presence will do for the campaign and notes the lack of energy of the crowds that showed up to listen to him. Two more 2008 campaign articles on page A16 discuss fighting amongst the Republican candidates and Clinton's attempt to make the word “change” a catchword not only associated with Barack Obama.
What do these four articles have in common? None of them talk substantially about any of the candidates stances on any issues and none of them hold a lens up to these stances, generating critical inquiry or thought. Instead they propagate a hyper-magnified attention to the candidate's campaign strategy and they speculate on the potential success of each candidates bid for president.
Although there were two articles that did challenge the rhetoric of the recent debates and the legitimacy of Mitt Romney's presidential platform, these were relegated to page A17 and were not featured as headlining news. By having the majority of articles focus on campaign strategy and speculation of candidate's, popularity the Times is helping to create an election process that seems more concerned with understanding how candidates market themselves to us rather than understanding the political stances of the candidates. This helps perpetuate the jaded viewpoint that the presidential elections are only fueled by spin and strategy.
Eli Sanders of Seattle's The Stranger, takes the stance that it is this spin and creation of buzz which drives voters to choose a candidate. In his article “The Anxiety of Hope” about Barack Obama's bid in Iowa, Sanders speaks of the mystical presence of Oprah Winfrey on the campaign and the candidate's own charismatic aura as being the reason he has generated so much popularity. He cites young voters who are supporting Obama due to his slogan of change, rather than in response to real issues.
But is that legitimate? Is this really how U.S. voters make decisions or is the media coverage leaving no other choice for voters except to go off of speculation and the supposed buzz surrounding a candidate? Spin and marketing may be an integral part of the campaigning process. Having an understanding of how candidates use marketing to create image and buzz is also important. However, perhaps if the media paid more attention to the platforms of the candidates this would become the most important factor in the decision of who to elect. And then, post-election, the voters might have a better idea of what they can hold a president accountable for once he or she takes office.