Watching the 2016 Presidential race heat up from outside of the country has been a fascinating cultural experience. As a general rule, the information is mostly volunteer access, meaning that I have to go find the information, rather than the more standard American access, which is less of a choice and more of an overwhelming avalanche. That being said, it puts the burden on the consumer of the information to look for a balance of opinions and to see a variety of perspectives.
Take, for example, the recent GOP debate that took place in Cleveland earlier this month. I was unable to watch the debate first-hand live; it was taking place at 3 AM local time. Waking up the next morning, every news source and social medium had an influx of information, not only breaking down the content of each candidate’s platform, but also dissecting every detail of HOW that information was presented.
I started on social media (my favorite and most biased outlet), which primarily consisted of reactions from non-professionals. These were everyday Americans, the voters, commenting and critiquing the candidates that they would one day see on a ballot. The opinions generally skewed to the left, as most of my digital community share my liberal ideals.
Next, I moved to my news outlets of choice. Primarily, I like the coverage of USA Today, because it is one of the few newspapers in the country that has done the best work to transition into digital and online formats, making it easy to access traditional journalism styles in a modern format. I explored what the journalistic community had to share about the event. Again, USA Today tends to sit on the left side of the aisle, and even more so CNN. Much of what I found on these pages were breakdowns of the ways that candidates presented themselves, the politicking between individuals on the podium, and collections of soundbites that had Republicans digging at each other and looking to crack holes in their opponents.
So far, I had found almost no actual issue-based coverage so I gritted my teeth and headed to Fox News. I generally don’t enjoy Fox’s coverage, as they are way too far to the right for me, and their bias is far too easily identified, but in this case, when looking at a GOP debate that was, in fact, hosted by Fox, I was intrigued to see how they would cover it. Better than any other news source, there were details about what exactly each candidate stood for, and how well they got that point across.
After almost 2 hours of research, I felt like I had a decent understanding of what happened and where each candidate stood on various issues. Considering how easy it is to find SOME information, I was very surprised to learn how hard I had to work to find ALL of the information.
It is easy to blame my absence from the country for the difficulty. In reality, though, it is just as hard in America to see through all of the biases and angles to get to the real issue: the issues. We can find easy information about the feud between Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell (ok, his feud with women in general), but what will he actually do to create greater stability in the Middle East? We know that Rand Paul is being a child in criticizing Chris Christie for hugging President Obama after Hurricane Sandy, but where does Paul stand when it comes to disaster relief?
Our gathering of information has turned into a full time job. We are bombarded with so much information about the political world that we now need to distinguish between what is real and what is crap. As hard is it might be, we need to do it, for fear that we will be unwitting bystanders in a system that encourages our politicians to belittle us, condescend us, and avoid us, for fear that we may actually demand that they lead.
The major theme of the Zoot Perspective’s evaluation of the next 15 months of the Presidential race is that we need to elevate the level of debate. We need to be asking the right questions and demanding that our politicians give us real, honest answers. I only get one vote, but I am going to make you earn it, Mr(s). Soon-To-Be-President.
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