These broken presidential primaries are not coming out of nowhere. The same desire for entertainment and simplicity that has created the Kardashian reality television dynasty has moved into the political sphere. This should not be surprising, because the same people who watch reality television are voting.
Our electoral process is no longer an effective way to select the most qualified leaders. The state of the current presidential primaries is exemplary of these problems. The electoral process is too long and too showy.
Debates and speeches discussing policy platforms can become repetitive over the course of a campaign cycle that now begins nearly two years before the election. As a result, candidates have an incentive to behave in ways that bring attention to them that are not necessarily related to policy.
This “showier” side of our electoral process is becoming increasingly evident this election season. Many believed Donald Trump’s campaign would fail because of his antics: his outrageous statements, his disrespect for other candidates and his brash style. In actuality, it is these things that have given him so much staying power. They are a source of discussion for many, creating an incentive for media outlets to devote more coverage to his antics in the hopes of gaining viewership. This is essentially providing the Trump campaign with free airtime. When you turn the electoral process into a game show, you cannot be surprised when a game show mogul runs away with it.
Trump is not the only candidate who has at times minimized the importance of policy to spread general awareness of his candidacy. Hillary Clinton’s attempts to gain the millennial vote has led one of the most powerful and experienced stateswoman to appear on comedy television as a guest star, and be the subject of numerous vines. On this campus, a pertinent example of the dumbing down of the discourse surrounding this election is Bernie Sanders’ success as a “dank meme-lord.” Although these tactics may be entertaining, they are not informative.
Politics is important, and should be engaging. However, in this primary election cycle, the line between being engaging and merely entertaining was crossed long ago. The election has become a cash-cow for news networks and convention centers. We need to take it back.