Stephen Lendman

More About: Government

Electoral Politics in America

Electoral Politics in America

by Stephen Lendman

He said, she said, who's ahead, who's behind discourse dominates political reporting. As a result, issues go unaddressed. People are left uninformed in the dark. Media scoundrels focus on popularity, not competence, and what readers and viewers most need to know.

Horse race journalism describes the process. It tells people everything except what's vital to their interests and welfare. Thomas Patterson called it a "quiet revolution" in election reporting. It developed over decades.

"(G)ame schema" framing elections in terms of strategy and political success rose from 45% in 1960 to over 80% in 1992. In contrast, coverage of policy and leadership dropped from 50% in 1960 to 10% in 1992.

In 2000, other analyses confirmed horse race reporting. Strategy accounted for over 70% of stories. In 2007's first five months, it dominated 63% of print and TV stories, compared to 15% on issues and proposals, and only 1% on candidates' past public performance.

Major media news and opinion are managed. Vital information's suppressed. A truth emergency leaves people uninformed on major issues and candidates' positions on them.

Tracking polls proliferate. They focus on electability. It's easier covering popularity than issues and why they matter.

Scholars fear horse race coverage undermines real issues, leaving voters unable to make informed choices. Moreover, reporting becomes self-reinforcing. It influences candidates' standing compared to opponents.

It also lets media scoundrels influence outcomes, favoring one or more candidates over others. In addition, it undermines public trust in an increasingly corrupt process.

American-Style Politics

Electoral fraud's not new. However, as technology improves, outcomes are easier to control. It's simple now with considerable resources backing it. As a result, elections and their run-up are kabuki theater. Major media and PR scoundrels play lead roles. Everything's pre-scripted.

Secrecy and back room deals substitute for a free, fair and open process. Candidates are pre-selected. Big money owns them. Key outcomes are predetermined. Duopoly power runs everything. Democrats are interchangeable with Republicans. Differences between them are minor. Not a dime's worth to matter.

Both sides support corporate interests, imperial wars, and the divine right of capital to exploit workers, gain new markets, control the world's resources, and rule it unchallenged. Beneficial social change, independent voices, and electoral democracy lose out under a rigged system against them.

The entire process was constitutionally flawed by design. Over time, things got worse, despite ending slavery and enfranchising women.

Partisan politics serves serves wealth and power, while popular interests go begging. People get the best democracy money can buy. Elections provide cover. Media scoundrels suppress the scam. Voter disenfranchisement's still rife.

Numerous techniques and harmful laws exclude millions. Things are so bad, half the electorate often abstains. Why not when elections are privatized. Easily manipulated corporate run touchscreen electronic machines vote, not citizens.

As a result, losers are declared winners, and not just for president. Democracy American-style's shear fantasy. Major media scoundrels suppress the scandal. Public outrage grows. What if one day a national election's held and few people show up? Why bother without real choices!

Campaigning and Presidential Debates

On the stump, candidates deliver pre-packaged, pre-scripted slogans, sound bites, and other rehearsed rhetoric to win votes. Focus-tested commercials proliferate. Candidate virtues and opponents' shortcomings are stressed, exaggerated for maximum effect.

Debates are worse. Avoiding issues, they're duplicitous charades leaving voters entirely uninformed. Until 1988, the nonpartisan League of Women Voters ran them. Thereafter, both major parties usurped control through their Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).

Excluded are independent candidates and opinions. In 2000, not only was Green Party candidate Ralph Nader shut out, he was threatened with arrest for showing up on October 3 for the first debate, despite having a valid auxiliary viewing room ticket.

Nonetheless, Massachusetts state police accosted him, forcing him to leave under threat of arrest. CPD officials left instructions to exclude him even in a separate viewing area sponsored by the University of Massachusetts. Others without tickets got in unopposed.

Nader sued and achieved partial vindication. CPD co-chairs Paul Kirk and Frank Fahrenkopf apologized.

Nader calls CPD's agenda "a deplorable, exclusionary tool of the two-party duopoly, performing an antidemocratic screening function in our system, and forcing excluded candidates to the sidelines in media attention and public appraisal."

As a result, independent voices are marginalized or silenced. CPD power politics excludes them. Why else would millions of voters opt out. Why bother when their concerns go unaddressed.

Nonetheless, a January 30, 2012 New York Times editorial headlined "Don't stop the Debates," saying:

"The value of debates is to put the candidates on stage to air their views." Voters can make their own choices, despite no options on issues mattering most.

Showing clear pro-Obama bias, The Times wants failed Republican politics aired to smooth his reelection. Undressed is how he's more right-wing than Bush and promises worse in a second term. Don't expect debates or NYT editorials to explain.

In September 2011, Washington Examiner contributor Star Parker headlined, "Why the presidential debates aren't serious," saying:

They look more like symptoms than solutions to major problems. They feature "(m)aximum style, minimum substance. (They) focus on sizzle, forget about the steak."

They're entertainment and deceptive, not substantive. They treat voters like mushrooms - well watered, in the dark and uninformed. Media scoundrels perpetuate the scam. As a result, duopoly power runs unopposed. Change won't come until public pressure rejects it.

Representative democracy failed. It's too corrupted to fix. Presidents and Congress serve serve monied, not popular interests. Only direct democracy works, letting people decide freely on their own.

Victor Hugo said, "There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come."

The time is now with enough people committed for change. It's the only way possible to achieve it. What better incentive than knowing the alternative's too grim to tolerate.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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