Joe Klein, in a 4/9/06 Time Magazine Viewpoint, said that: "... In the television era, fleeting impressions mattered far more than cogent policies. Presidential politics had been reduced to a handful of moments and gestures."
He cited Carl Rove's assumption that "voters had three basic questions about a candidate: Is he a strong leader? Can I trust him? Does he care about people like me?" And that political campaigns were about getting the public to answer "yes" to those three questions and "no" to at least one of them in relation to the opponent.
He suggested that "Democrats had it backward: the character of their candidate, they [Democrats] believed, would be inferred from the quality of his [or her] policies." This just hasn't worked in today's television era. It's too subtle and takes too long.
The article is packed full of interesting material in relation to our subject of manipulation and how it has effected the outcomes of the past few elections.
Remember, manipulation isn't just from "them" to "us." Sometimes the candidates themselves are manipulated (or self manipulated out of a strong desire to win at all costs). Al Gore is a perfect case in point. He ran his election giving in to the consensus consultant's opinion that environmental issues didn't swing elections. So he didn't talk about where his passions lay but instead appeared stilted and stiff because he was talking on subjects the consultants thought the voters wanted to hear. Consequently the voters never got to see the real Al Gore.
Ronald Reagan asked if we were better off than we were four years ago in his campaign against Carter. Perhaps we should ask similar questions today about President Bush: Is he a strong leader? Can I trust him? Does he care about people like me?
If I were the umpire it would have to be strike three -- yurrrr OUT! How would you vote?
More on this subject to follow soon.
PS: Klein's article had a poignant tribute to the qualities that we all admired about Bobby Kennedy and that are sorely lacking today. Please read the article and listen to the speech that is embedded in that article. I was in tears.