Could anyone imagine what American political reporting might look like if its leading actors weren’t so obsessive about the next election? If “who’s running in 2012” is the media equivalent of crystal meth, then our Washington press corps, like Ben Smith of POLITICO, who wakes me up every morning with his email blast, are eager and willing to play the role of wild eyed hillbillies who can’t seem to get enough of the stuff, especially if it involves a certain half-term governor from Alaska.
This is the same press corps that spent practically every spare moment after Hillary Clinton was elected to the U.S. Senate handicapping Clinton’s chances of cracking the whip from the Oval Office, with her ex-president husband riding shotgun. It’s not just the political press who seems to be infatuated with the Big Dance – you can’t scroll through a sports news site without seeing at least two or three links to some prognosticators list of this year’s Super Bowl picks.
Is there any real value to engaging in this endless and incessant speculation?
Don't get us wrong -- an awful gaffe at this stage could be deadly, and there's no question that early money is crucial. But let's be honest. The absurdly early start of this primary season has a lot more to do with entertaining bored political elites than with persuading actual primary voters.
It is reminiscent of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle we all heard about in high school physics class. Professor Werner Heisenberg postulated that 'the more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known.' Applied to the presidential race, this suggests that the more we measure how the candidates stand now, the less we may know about where things are going to end up -- because the measurement itself can render the findings inaccurate."
Is it possible, if we didn’t have all of conjecture, all of the rumors, and flights of fancy that often factor into the coverage of presidential hopefuls, that an unknown soul nobody had ever heard of could be elevated to the highest office in the land? Not a chance.
Is it possible, despite the limited powers of the presidency, the balancing effect of our two other branches of government, and the built in inertia of the federal bureaucracy that presents a formidable obstacles to sweeping change of any kind, good or bad, for any one president to really be given the opportunity to totally destroy the republic? Not from where I’m sitting.
I wish I had an alternative to suggest, but as Jay-Z put it yesterday in a USATODAY interview:
"Politics are a lot of posturing and jockeying back and forth about who you are. You're a Republican, I'm a Democrat— it's not about real issues, and it's not about people. I'm turned off to that whole process."
Jay-Z is absolutely right when he says the “posturing and jockeying” are “not about the real issues.”
But our politicians who may be looking to flip the script on politics as usual (are you reading this, Mr. President?) and actually try to treat their constituencies like intelligent adults will find themselves without a following. Our political reporters who focus solely on the issues will find themselves without readers.
Because the citizens in this country don’t want to read about the intricacies of the START treaty. They have no interest in retracing the byzantine labyrinths the mortgage backed security arm of the financial industry has concocted to find out where the actual physical mortgage note to their home might be hiding. They don’t care anymore about BP and its surreptitious efforts to try to wiggle out of all the commitments they made while the well was leaking and the cameras were rolling.
What the public really wants to know is who is going to win Dancing With The Stars this year.