By: Cristina D. Epperson
Should election updates be categorized under “Entertainment” in the news? Do people tune in to presidential debates for humor and enjoyment, or to understand the qualities and ideals of their next future president? These are understandable questions to ponder as the 2016 race starts dipping its toes in the pool of controversial candidates during an unstable time for our country and for the world.
Currently leading the GOP in the laughable reality show of the 2016 presidential race is Donald Trump, “The Trump”. According to CNN, after 23 million people tuned in to the recent debate, “Trump is still the party’s front-runner with 24 percent support”. Between a statement he released saying that Mexicans “are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc”, reported by Business Insider. His comments to Rolling Stone Magazine — according to MSNBC — in which he said “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president”? In regards to Republican candidate Carly Fiorina, and according to CBS News, his complete lack of response to a man at a campaign rally who said “we have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims” and “We know our current president is one”, it is likely difficult for those who have even a hint of morals or logic to understand how his lead is possible.
Seeing as the media seems to not just put “The Trump” in the spotlight, but also any sort of petty drama or issues that do not focus on important topics, the question of “how” may not be as appropriate as “why” Despite the lack of filter in the media, we have choices and responsibilities as consumers, as voters, and as citizens. So why are the majority of us choosing to tune in but not vote? Fairvote.org states that only “about 60 percent of the voting eligible population votes during presidential election years”, while in democracies such as “Australia, Belgium, and Chile, voter turnout hovered near 90 percent in the 2000’s”. Looking at the statistics previously mentioned about the 23 million people tuning in to the recent debate, it is arguable that people are drawn to the entertainment and the reality show feel of it all but are not taking seriously the people competing to be the next face of the United States of America.
So where can the pieces of the puzzle lay to create a presidential election which incites powerful discussions, and results in a strong voter turnout, showing that we the people are not silenced by foolishness on television, but know how to use our voice? First of all, the voting-eligible public can do just that – use their voice, but use it responsibly of course. Second, the debate platform can be adjusted to not just offer questions of substance, but to also make sure that candidates are staying on topic. How often are debates shown which do not spark negative, accusatory, or aggressive comments? How often are debates shown where a candidate does not go off on an unrelated or uninformative rant? Those debates just might be too boring for some of us Americans, but if you really feel that way, the Kardashians will always have your back. These debates of substance do exist, just maybe not in our country. The New York Times described a recent debate between Canadian political leaders in which they “discussed creative means to expand the economy, had nuanced disagreements, and offered economic rationales for their positions”. Though not all U.S. presidential debates lack substance, they still have a long way to go, especially compared with the stimulating yet still civil, recent Canadian political debate. Third, we have the issue of the tangled web of money in the candidates’ back pockets, but that is a different topic in itself and the solution is almost as long as the problem. For now we can do our part and use our voice, and for those who haven’t found their voice yet, don’t forget to pick up your “Sexy Donald Trump” costume for Halloween.