According to a recent Fox News article, the third presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was the third most watched in history. It was behind only the lone Reagan-Carter debate in 1980 (80.6 M people) and the first debate which took the top spot with a hefty 84 million. So it means that the American people are more engaged and contemplative of their November 8th choice than ever, right?
Wrong. According to news analyst and contributor to CBS News and the Fox News Channel Frank Lutz, in an article in Time, there is only 11% of the country that is undecided (separated into uneducated/apathetic and none-of-the-above groups). In short, the vast majority have made of their minds about who they are voting for and aren’t going to be swayed.
So why was the third debate so well-viewed? Did we tune in to better familiarize ourselves with the candidates’ stance on issues, or was it for something else that had defined the 2016 election from the start? Was it just for the entertainment value?
“We have taken our eyes of the ball and succumb to the reality television world.”
The entire presidential election cycle has been like passing a horrific accident on the highway. You just have to slow down and admire the carnage. This election has turned into a true reality show with the direction of the nation for the next four years at stake. So instead of careful consideration of the candidates and pressing them on their positions, we get sexual assault allegations, embarrassing emails, some which may have violated classified data handling laws, name calling, and a general nonchalance about the discussion of issues. This is how we treat our future.
It doesn’t matter. The networks loved the ratings, and that sets a dangerous precedent. If the mainstream media feels covering an election in this manner is going to garner more viewership and/or readership, expect the same every four years. More October surprises. More artificial drama. If the cult of personality does not suck people in as it did in this election, look for the media to create a circus that will. And there is the inherent danger.
This has not been a policy-driven election because Americans have not demanded it to be one. With so much juicy gossip to dissect, who has time for bland discourses on economic improvement and how the United States will respond to military aggression from Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea when we can talk about which women Donald Trump groped? Or what Podesta’s emails handed to us from WikiLeaks means for Hillary Clinton?
We have taken our eyes of the ball and succumb to the reality television world. It is not Trump’s fault. It’s not Clinton’s. It isn’t even the media’s despite their eagerness to spoon feed us this drivel. It is ours for not demanding more. From our news sources. From our candidates. From ourselves.
My fellow Americans, we get the leaders we deserve. The cesspool that is Washington politics is of our own creation because we stood by, allowed it to happen, and have taken no action to demand change. And before you say differently, ask yourself why you watched the debate on Wednesday night and answer that question honestly.
Do you agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave me a comment!
Mikael Carlson is the award-winning political fiction author of The iCandidate and the Michael Bennit Series of political dramas. He has also written the thriller The Eyes of Others. His current series, The Black Swan Saga, are epic dystopian political thrillers that showcase a world of corporate governance dominated by elitists. The first two novels, America, Inc. and America, Inc.: Bounded Rationality are available now. He lives in Danbury, CT.