As Jeff Poor reported, David Brooks has declared this, “the worst campaign I’ve ever covered.”
I think he’s right — for a variety of reasons.
First, as Brooks notes, it has been decidedly negative.
By negative, I’m not merely referring to “mean” TV ads (though we have certainly seen our fair share), but that the entire premise of this campaign has been based on voting against the other guy. (Obama’s message is essentially that Romney is an out-of-touch plutocrat. Romney’s message is that Obama is destroying the American economy.)
That’s on them. But I think the evolving media landscape is also a major contributor.
As Howard Kurtz writes, this has become a “clown campaign.” The need for content to fill a 24-hour news cycle, plus the proliferation of new sites dedicated to driving page views and ad impressions, has created an environment where political reporters cover politics the way TMZ covers entertainment.
But don’t blame the new media outlets. This brand of journalism thrives because the public eats it up. And once the genie is out of the bottle (as it now is), you can either adapt (by providing your own brand of instant, granular, or trivial content) or die.
The newest development seems to be that celebrities have sensed this is a new area to exploit for publicity.
To be sure, politically-minded celebrities have long dabbled in politics. But they were mostly sincere, if quixotic. Today, however, politics is simply another way for celebrities to keep their name in the headlines.
It used to be that the way to get attention was to fake a breakdown and then be hospitalized for “exhaustion.” Then, attention-hungry celebrities discovered the joys of the leaked sex tape. Today, celebrities can garner attention by injecting themselves into the presidential campaign. And this can be done by merely releasing a YouTube video — or sending a tweet.
Unfortunately, all these things likely have negative consequences for democracy.
Politics, it seems, is the new sex tape.