Politics in this country are radically aggressive right now, not only between the left and the right (as shown by the seemingly innocuous bumper stickers), but also within the parties themselves. The most recent Democratic debate, for example, was filled with “gotcha” moments between candidates.
Take the one that news outlets went crazy over: Joe Biden referring to Bernie Sanders as the President. “The president thinks — my friend from Vermont thinks…” Biden said, laughing at his own gaff. The moment is undeniably funny, but should it have been one of the major stories coming out of this debate?
With 10 candidates on the stage last Thursday, the presidential hopefuls threw new and exciting ideas around constantly. These are concepts that may define the country for decades to come, yet we are reporting on the silly Biden mix-up and the controversy around Yang’s $120,000 giveaway.
That is not to say that these moments are not important. They are. These people might be representing the United States on a global scale in the future. But these relatively minor moments are not nearly as important as deconstructing the core beliefs of the people on that stage.
Though entertaining, the framing of elections as a boxing match is not what we need to prosper as a country. Trump—in the early stages of the Republican primaries—was a heavyweight fighting featherweight. He threw out lines that, although wildly offensive, gained media coverage. In 2015, it seemed like every day featured a new funny Trump story.
Next thing we knew, Trump was president of the United States. His master manipulation of the media helped him gain a valuable asset for politicians: air time.
But Americans aren’t stupid. We saw what happened. We now see why voting for the candidate who says “funny” lines and “tells it like it is” may not be the best choice.
Maybe this is why Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are popular in the polls. These are two people who won’t give in to the media’s desire for a political boxing match. These are two people who focus on policy over anything else.
Voting for candidates who focus on policy over one-liners is a step in the right direction, but it’s not the end-all-be-all. We also, as voters and citizens, need to pay attention to more than the person we like.
It’s easy to become enraptured by one candidate, but we must remember that there are 10 people on that stage. Sure, not every one of them has an equal chance of winning, but they are people who will have an important voice in politics over their career. Just because Pete Buttigieg likely will not be the Democratic candidate does not mean he is going to vanish. He will continue to be a vital voice of the party and may even end up in a Cabinet position.
On the other side of the aisle, Republicans aren't even allowing for dialogue. South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Kansas have cancelled their primaries and caucuses, putting Trump's competition at a major disadvantage.
This is censorship by these states' Republican parties. They are trying to remove the voice of representatives speaking out against Trump.
No matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, it is your responsibility as a voter to pay attention to everyone running for president. Familiarize yourself with their beliefs. Look for someone whose goal is not to make liberals cry or proclaim themselves to be anti-stupid; look for someone who will represent all people of this country (not only those who support them).