Election Day 2012
How America's Vote is Influenced
By now I’m sure you know who you are voting for. Not only for President but for all the local, State, Congressional elections and referendums. Like all other Americans, you have researched the candidates and issues on the internet, TV and periodicals. Your selections are pure and are not contaminated by partisanship, spin, your own self interest or those ridiculous campaign ads on TV. Your selections are the product of intense research, cold logic and your instincts on how to improve this country. When you go to the polls in eleven days, you will be going with about 150 million other American who arrived at their choices the way you did.
Of course this is not true. While a few people may actually do the activities I’ve mentioned above, most do not, especially people who don’t have a real interest in politics and the issues that affect us. Most people make their voting selections for many different reasons. Some are partisan, they will only vote for candidates from their own party. They won’t listen to any side of an issue but the one they have conditioned themselves to believe.
Others are apolitical and don’t pay any attention to the big issues until just before election time. They are the most influenced by the slanted campaign commercials and spin. They let the campaign noise tell them which way to go. They will listen to the opinions, and views of the people around them to help them make a decision. The campaigns love these people because they are easily swayable and their advertising can be very effective.
But I do have a suspicion that many people pick a person who looks the part and they feel comfortable with. This is why candidates spend a lot of time and effort to look good and work on their image. In some ways this is more effective then a candidate’s positions on important issues. It appeals to the subconscious and some people will be willing to give a candidate a pass on some of his or her shortcomings and failures and support them. This is an advantage our current President has going for him.
Another President who had this advantage was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He took office in March 1933 when our country was in the middle of the worst Depression we have ever seen. In his First 100 Days, he enacted many social programs designed to provide “relief, recovery and reform”. He developed an image as “a man of the people” (despite being very wealthy himself) and was loved by many average Americans. His popularity with the people hid the fact that many of his efforts to get the country back economically, failed.. It was our entrance into World War 2 that got us out of the Depression. But he was still elected President four times.
When I think of the Great Depression, I think of FDR. He was a great President who symbolized American spirit, grit, determination and optimism during this time. Because he had developed that image, the voters tended to overlook his struggles and failures. He was an icon of the times.
Historians look back upon Presidential Administrations and how they affected the times. When people vote, they are looking to make America better over the next four years and beyond. They are looking for a President that they can relate to and identify with. One who will make them feel important and safe. Because of the nature of our two party system, many times neither of the candidates will stand out and people end up voting unenthusiastically or for “the lesser of the two evils“. When a candidate clearly stands out, his election can lead to a groundswell of hope and optimism among certain citizens. Two prime examples are Reagan in 1980 and Obama in 2008.
I just finished reading one of the best Hubs I have read in a long time.. It is a detailed argument as why Mitt Romney should be our next President. It is well thought out and researched. After a serious reading of it, one would have no excuse for voting for Obama. Articles like this may sway a few opinions, but people by and large would rather be surfing the web looking at the latest gossip from The Real Housewives of New Jersey or how their favorite NFL team is preparing for this weekend’s game. The campaigns know this, which is why their marketing consists of sound bites and short commercials on TV and radio. This is done in an attempt to influence the population by spin and with the least amount of fact or effort. In many cases, this is done by coming up with a short phrase, sound bite or video that sticks in the public’s mind. The simpler the better. For example, in Massachusetts a few years ago there was a referendum on the ballot. The opposition launched on a campaign of commercials, bumper stickers and signs that said ”Vote No on Question 2, It’s Bad for You” Very little information was revealed on why it was bad for me. (I researched it and it turned out it was good for me, so I voted for it, however the campaign worked, as the measure was defeated)
It is a shame that the two parties have to use Madison Avenue like tactics to influence the vote. But that’s what it takes to convince the American people. With something as important as the future of our country, I wish people would take it more seriously so their vote is one based on fact and opinion, not spin, impression, bias, slanted commercials and influence.