In David Brooks’s column in the New York Times today, he rattles off 10 reasons why this presidential campaign is so incredibly boring. He rightfully scolds Mitt Romney for running “the closest thing to a policy-free race as any candidate in my lifetime” and criticizes President Obama’s proposals as “small and medium-size retreads.” I disagree with Brooks’s description of the President’s proposals – does he really consider the American Jobs Act small?
But I also think the reason he considers these ideas retreads is that Obama has been in office for four years. He hasn’t been keeping a secret agenda from the American public just to unveil it on the campaign trail. In addition, Democrats have been pushing many of the ideas he supports for years. Policy experts and the media have thoroughly dissected every policy proposal. There isn’t anything new to report.
And even if Romney did reveal which policies he supports, the media would only be able to do so much with it. In all likelihood, those policies would be conservative retreads as well.
But Brooks makes another point that I think is more important:
[T]echnology is making campaigns dumber. BlackBerrys and iPhones mean that campaigns can respond to their opponents minute by minute and hour by hour. The campaigns get lost in tit-for-tat minutiae that nobody outside the bubble cares about. Meanwhile, use of the Internet means that Web videos overshadow candidate speeches and appearances. Video replaces verbal. Tactics eclipse vision.
This is 100 percent true and it’s sad, as I’m not sure there’s much that will change either. If the media collectively decided to ignore the gaffes that attract viewers, then maybe we could break out of this technology-driven monotony. But the majority of viewers are strongly split between Obama and Romney. They want to see passionate speeches from the candidate they support and gaffes from the candidate they don’t. They don’t want to see wonky, policy speeches. So if a media station decides to focus on policy over gaffes (ala The Newsroom), it’s just going to see viewership decrease (ala The Newsroom). Welcome to presidential campaigns in the 21st century!