November 8, 2016 is a day to celebrate. It is the last day the American People will be subjected to a constant bombardment of political gossip about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The Eighth of November is the last day the America People will have to spend their day watching a thousand political ads, sifting through a hundred emails, listening to a dozen robocalls on their answering machines, and ripping up piles of junk mail that literally say nothing about how the candidates will actually make government work for the American People. Election Day will not be celebrated as the “Super Bowl” of democracy. It will be a welcome relief from the theater of the campaign trail, which is not what real politics is about.
In July of 2015, the Huffington Post decided to cover Donald Trump’s presidential bid as entertainment news instead of politics. This decision upset many, but the never ending controversies of the 2016 Presidential Election appear to justify the move. The Huffington Post was wrong in targeting Donald Trump, yet the sad truth is “politics” has become just another form of entertainment news. Instead of following the lives of A-list and B-list celebrities, politics is a perpetual realty show featuring the quotes, mishaps, and antics of P-list celebrities. Where coverage of public policy and civil discourse requires costly man-hours, political entertainment is cheap, easy, and very lucrative, but it is not what voters need or want.
Today, politics is dominated by self-serving special interest agendas, mutually destructive rivalries, distracting propaganda, and extreme polarization. Politics is supposed to help facilitate governance and strengthen public policies by improving communication between the governed and their leadership. Regrettably, the nastiness of politics does more to sabotage public policy, undermine trust in civil society, and divide people along even the pettiest of issues than it does to help solve the problems the People of the United States and the world face as national communities. As the world’s most powerful and oldest modern democracy, the US should be a leader in political discourse and civic engagement, yet the 2016 Election demonstrates the very opposite to be true.
In the political world, the ability to withstand the psychologically crushing theatrics of the campaign trail has become the number one qualification for candidates. The ability to uncover, develop, and implement solutions is an afterthought. This is why politicians, instead of properly assessing problems and developing effective solutions, more and more often recycle whatever policy is suggested by advisers and least unpopular at the moment. Unfortunately, this usually means politicians will take-up fundamentally flawed policies that are more likely to cause problems instead of solving them. The need for in-depth and policy-driven coverage of elections and government is, therefore, more important than ever, yet that kind of coverage is precisely what the political entertainment tends to bury.
Quite frankly, the entertainment-driven coverage of the 2016 US Presidential Election distracted Americans, as well as the rest of the world, from serious issues that needed confronted. After years of crippling political dysfunction at the hands of Republicans under the leadership of Democrat Barack Obama, already neglected issues, such as tenuous state of the economy, have been increasingly overshadowed by ruinous theatrics. Where the election of new leadership is supposed to sharpen the focus on the most important issues in the eyes of the Peoples, the caricatures that are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have turned the political system into a drama. Unfortunately, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are not exceptions to the rule; they are the rule.
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