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Protesting Everyone?

September 4th, 2012

If you turn on coverage of the Democratic National Convention this week, you’ll undoubtedly see protesters getting some air time.  In fact, so far, there are more DNC protestors than there were at the RNC last week — a major surprise to many a political pundit!

The DNC hasn’t even started yet, and Occupiers have more than 100 people living in their encampment.  Several hundred protestors marched through Charlotte’s business district on Sunday, spouting off views about everything from the war in Afghanistan to immigration.

It’s an interesting turn of events, considering that President Obama has always been vocal in his support of protests like these — especially when it comes to the Occupiers.  In fact, when the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations began last year, the President said, “We understand their struggles, and we are on their side.”

So, why aren’t Occupiers on his side?

In fairness, the Occupiers are not fans of the GOP, either.  In fact, many protestors went straight from Tampa (and calling Mitt Romney the “king of the 1%ers”) to Charlotte.

So, why are they protesting EVERYONE?  What is it that they WANT?

That’s an answer that’s tough to get.

In fact, there seems to be as many opinions as there are protestors.  At best, the Occupiers send a mixed message — shown off most glaringly by their attacks on corporate greed, all while snapping pictures with their iPhones.

But that’s not all they’re against.  They also don’t like housing evictions, nuclear weapons, and the hopelessness of the nation’s unemployed workers.

The problem?

Without a solid, cohesive message, they’re confusing people more than encouraging them to join in.  And, by being against everyone on both sides of the political aisle, who do they think is going to solve their problems?

The Media and Politics — Why is the Line So Fuzzy?

September 4th, 2012

Open up any history book, and you’ll see what a big role Ben Franklin played in the earliest days of American politics.  Among his many accomplishments, Franklin spent time in the Pennsylvania Assembly, the Constitutional Convention, and the Continental Congress.

But did you know that Franklin was also a newspaper man?

He owned — and wrote articles for — the Pennsylvania Gazette.  He even drew America’s very first political cartoon — a snake carved up into pieces, with the words “Join, or Die” underneath it.  Each portion of the snake represented a Colony.  Its message was clear — stand together against British rule.

But what would we say if one of the current leaders in Washington owned, wrote for, and drew cartoons for a newspaper?  Would we argue that the politician’s views were getting in the way of news-telling?

Sadly, it’s not the politicians we have to worry about.  These days, it’s the reporters who seem to be getting in the way of news-telling!

Decades ago, TV stations and newspapers forbid reporters and anchors from even having political bumper stickers on their cars — much less sharing any political views on the air or in print.  Today, political opinions are flying around on every channel!

Just check out some of the headlines surrounding Mitt Romney’s speech at the Republican National Convention:

From NBC News:

“Will Romney exploit the same ‘facts’ Ryan did in the biggest speech of his life?”

From the Associated Press:

“Romney’s deficit vow is shallow”

From the Washington Post:

“Romney’s rushed, muddled speech”

From Vanity Fair:

“Mitt Romney’s best-yet speech is (finally) heartfelt”

There are news outlet attacks on both sides of the aisle, and these are only some of the most recent examples.  But after seeing some of these latest headlines, you can’t help but wonder — when did sarcasm and personal attacks become news?  When did the author’s opinions become bigger than the story?  What happened to reporting the who, what, where, when, why — and leaving it at that?

What’s the Story Behind Third-Party Candidates?

August 29th, 2012

The U.S. has had a two-party political system for hundreds of years — ever since the Federalists and the Republicans started duking things out in 1791.

But every now and then, a third-party candidate comes along and shakes things up.

In 2012, Ron Paul certainly made a splash — even though the Libertarian technically ran as a Republican.  Now that he’s out of the race, Gary Johnson is trying to mount a campaign against Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Before that, we had Ralph Nader in 2000.  And, of course, who could ever forget Ross Perot in 1992?

Historically, third-party candidates don’t get a ton of votes in Presidential elections, but they can do a lot to derail the other guys.

Just look at what Ross Perot did…

Even though he officially dropped out of the race in July of 1992, he clearly siphoned off votes that would have otherwise gone to George H.W. Bush in November.  But even more importantly, Perot spent his entire campaign drawing lots of attention to the national debt — something that incumbent Bush was responsible for.  So, when Bill Clinton came along and said tax increases were the only way to close the deficit, people were more willing to listen.

So, where did the idea of third-party candidates come from?

The names may change over the years (after all, America has seen everything from the Free Soil Party, to the Southern Democrat Party, to the Reform Party, to the Green Party, to the Libertarian Party), but the purpose is always the same — to focus on what they believe are the “right” issues and to make sure that these issues are dealt with properly.

What do you think?  Do these parties deserve more credit?  Do you think they could ever replace one of the “mainstream” parties?

How Important Are Political Conventions?

August 29th, 2012

Thanks to 24-hour news cycles, constantly-updating polls, and things like Twitter and Facebook, the suspense of finding out who’s actually going to be nominated by a party to run for President is gone.  These days, even running mates are picked well before the convention!

We also get to see candidates’ platforms sooner.  After all, millions of dollars are spent every month in TV and radio ads to tell us what candidates think and how they would handle certain issues.  We also get to see the candidates go head-to-head — without all of the fancy graphics and witty copywriters — in debates.

So, have we outgrown political conventions?

Absolutely not!

Here’s why they’re absolutely essential to our Presidential elections:

–        They give each party a chance to appear on primetime TV

The exposure conventions get is much bigger than any exposure candidates could hope to get from a TV ad or a well-written press release.  For a few days, they get the exclusive attention of the big TV networks.

–         They give lesser-known members of the parties a chance to shine

When Barack Obama spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, it was the first time many Americans had even heard of him — and clearly he made an impression on them!  The same can be said for Sarah Palin — who Americans didn’t know much about until her convention speech in 2008.

–         They get people excited

Political conventions are like pep rallies.  They don’t necessarily determine the outcome of the election (or of the big game), but they give everyone a morale boost.  And when people are excited, they’re more likely to talk about the issues and the candidates with friends — meaning more people get involved in the political process.

So, what effect will Hurricane Isaac have on the Republican National Convention this year?  The Republicans already had to cancel the first day of their convention.  Now, they’re splitting primetime with hurricane coverage.  Will this affect their chances come November?

To Choose or Not to Choose?

August 21st, 2012

RNC makes Delegates choose between RNC Event and Ron Paul

 
The U.S. Constitution Mount Rushmore Statue of Liberty United States Capitol Building The Lincoln Memorial United States Air Force Flag of the United States of America Embassy Flags

The U.S. Constitution

A Transcript of the Original from Archives.gov

Mount Rushmore

National Memorial

Statue of Liberty

Dedicated on October 28, 1886 from France

United States Capitol Building

Washington, D.C.

The Lincoln Memorial

An American national monument built to honor the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

United States Air Force

Flag of the United States of America

Nicknames for the flag include the

Embassy Flags

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