Monday, February 15, 2016


Son One, Wife and I were talking politics this morning (how unusual!) and Son One stated that, in his opinion, most voters do not want to hear details about policy. Instead, he continued, most voters respond to candidates based on personality traits, style, and broad statements of vision. He used Al Gore and John Kerry as examples of the wonky, intellectual detail guys, and Reagan and G.W. Bush as examples of the likable, vision guys (someone to get a beer with). 

I was thinking about this, and discussing it again with Wife over lunch. I came to the following conclusion: the candidate debates are like Facebook. 

Here is why. Most Facebook users don't spend much time on any single post - there are simply too many posts to scroll through every time one opens Facebook to dwell very long on any single post. Sure, we all click on something and watch a video (if it is short), or maybe look at an article (if it is short). But generally, I think we just want to see what our FB friends are talking about at any specific time, and move on. 

Answer this question honestly about yourself: how often do you click on a link in someone's post and read a lengthy article? And if you do that, how often do you click links in that article and read deeper and deeper on the topic and related topics? 

I imagine that, for many voters - perhaps a majority? - when they watch a candidates debate, they aren't interested in the details of a policy question, they simply want to hear a sound byte from each candidate, and then respond in a positive or negative way to the candidate's style and demeanor, and whether or not they "got" the other candidate(s) with a memorable zinger. If a candidate goes too deeply, that is, starts clicking on links to get more and more into the topic, voters probably start to nod off, roll their eyes, look at their get the idea. 

In this year's Democratic candidate debates, I hear and read criticisms of Sen. Sanders that "he doesn't have any policies; he never gets into the details; he doesn't go into how he will accomplish all the things (visions) he keeps spouting off about." And from Sec. Clinton supporters I hear that "she really knows her stuff; she has the details; she actually has policies and talks about them." I assume, and I would be surprised if I'm wrong, that the Sanders campaign strategy for the debates is to be more like Facebook, and less like a real policy and details debate. They know that voters, particularly younger people, are social media users, and will likely respond better to scrolling through the issues than stopping and doing a lot of clicking. 

I spend more time on Facebook than maybe I should. One reason is that I do a lot of clicking. Some of my FB friends post very interesting things, and I take the time to read articles, watch extensive interviews, etc. I have watched a number of the debates (both Dem and Rep), but I don't count on learning very much from those. And so I have spent time clicking around and reading the details on the Sanders and Clinton websites. The policy and issue details are there, if anyone cares to actually look for and read them. 

One other comment about the Facebook analogy - the Republican debates. These so-called debates are also very much like Facebook. Few, if any of the "posts," i.e. candidate statements, get into the details - a lot of it is meant to be adorable puppy dog and kitty cat pictures. Although, very little of it is what I would call adorable! And then there is also the on-line ALL-CAP shouting, WITH DONALD TRUMP LEADING THE WAY WITH INSULTS, SHOUTS OF "YOU'RE A LIAR," SHOUTS OF FIRE IN A CROWDED THEATER (THE MEXICANS/ARABS/MUSLIMS/TERRORISTS ARE COMING TO KILL US AND RAPE OUR WOMEN AND TAKE ALL OF OUR JOBS!!!!) 

I don't expect the typical American voter to look for the details, to do a lot of clicking deeper and deeper into a policy topic. Maybe I'm wrong - I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think so. I think many of my friends and relatives do look more deeply into issues; however, my circle likely encompasses people who are by nature more intellectually curious than the average American voter. (Maybe I'm being a progressive snob here - I would like to know if I am.) 


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