The Bully Pulpit
College of Charleston


Anyone who has even remotely followed the 2016 Presidential Election can agree that it has become more of a circus than a dignified political campaign season. Ed Rogers of The Washington Post published an article yesterday that explains how the candidates’ rhetoric, or persuasive speech, is more disconnected from reality than we have ever seen during an election season. Rogers believes that there is an all-time low in regards to disconnect between the candidates, the media and the important issues that need to be addressed. I completely agree with him.

While you read this post, you may be thinking of one party in particular, but I think this is an issue occurring in both parties - GOP and Democratic Party. Last fall we saw major criticism over the GOP debate format, and while the structure may have improved in the new year, the content has not. Just this past week, one GOP candidate threatened to sue another candidate, and the topic of conversation lingered on who had insulted whom. Rather than discussing issues that actually matter, the GOP’s debates imitate catty gossip between high school girls. You can thank Donald Trump and the media for the ridiculous antics that now characterize the 2016 debate stage. Trump’s loud insults and objections have truly spoiled the GOP’s debates. His opponents cannot stoop to his level for fear they will lose credibility, but on the other hand, they will for sure lose the race if they don’t. Trump has been a fixture of entertainment during this political season, and sadly, his media-fed sensationalism continues to gain him supporters.

(David Goldman, Associated Press)

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders is making promises that he can’t keep. According to Rogers, Sanders wants to create a new host of giveaways that would be impossible to finance or pass through Congress. The media is focused on coverage surrounding insults, poll standings and conflicting personalities rather than addressing critical issues like our economy, North Korea’s nuclear weapon expansion, and the increasingly hostile situation with Syria. I agree with Rogers on his point that there is a lack of depth in media coverage during this campaign season, and for this very reason it has been a struggle to bring important topics to the forefront of the 2016 Election.

My greatest concern is if we are not talking about the important issues, how will voters make an informed voting decision? Equally as important, how will the newly elected president address or solve our greatest issues? A campaign season that lacks in-depth, serious discussion on issues like the economy, national security and education could seriously alter the future of our country. Without specific information to aid in my decision, how am I - and other undecided voters – supposed to know who to vote for? The media needs to step up and use their power position to change the discourse and influence candidates’ rhetoric to focus on what really matters before America elects an unsatisfactory candidate.

A great example of an undecided voter feeling frustrated with the lack of serious and professional discourse surrounding this presidential primary season…

On January 17, 2016 the Democratic candidates took the stage at Charleston’s Gaillard Center for the final Democratic debate before the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Primary. My sister, Margaret Deal, is an event coordinator for the Gaillard Center, so she was on site and behind the scenes the day of the debate. In summary, my sister does not keep up with politics like I do. She’s doesn’t affiliate with either Party; she plans parties. My sister rolls her eyes when I scold her for not watching the debates so she can make an informed voting decision. Unable to attend the debate, I begged Margaret to get me Hillary Clinton’s autograph if she got the opportunity. After the chaos was over we met for dinner since I had not seen her in days - she practically moved into the Gaillard in the days leading up to the debate. Naturally, I wanted to pick her brain for her opinion on the Democratic candidates. They were the last thing she wanted to talk about. Why you ask? She was fed up with all of the candidates. She couldn’t single out one candidate that she would maybe vote for. Margaret couldn’t even name the third candidate, Martin O’Malley – bless his heart – since he barely had a voice during the debate. Margaret was disgusted with all the candidates. From her perspective, all they did was criticize and point fingers instead of discussing the issues at hand. She said to me, “honestly at this point I’m just not going to vote.” This is saddening because I know she was not the only one thinking that after watching the debate. This should be a huge wake-up call to the media and candidates.

Written by: Emily Deal

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