It is currently t-minus a year and a half until we will line up and cast our choice for who will be given the most powerful position of power in the world. Little over a decade ago, Ralph Nader stood as what many believed was the great white hope for the end of the two party system. A beginning of a new age where the yin-yang dictcotomy of American politics would be dissolved and the evident diversity of American opinion would be given a reign.
Except that never happened. Nader scored a popular recognition among even the most jaded americans but will forever stand as a popular footnote to what Louis Black describes as “the choice between two piles of shit.”
In the tumultuously interesting years that have followed, we have seen not a self-effacing turn away from the two-party system whose thin veneer of “ideological differences” has been entirely evident since Clinton took office. Instead, a self absorbed style of navel-gazing has ripped the seams of the parties seemingly solid structure. First, the Tea Party created a surge of anger and political advocacy within the Grand Old Party’s “base.” Touted as a remedy to the hypocrisy of the small government ideologues and what many saw as the socialization of America, in reality the Tea Party is as much a racist reaction to the election of our first black president as it is to political reality of compromise. Then, the Occupy Movement harnessed the anger of the young and dispossessed given little hope in a floundering economy where the rich got richer as everyone else became poor or homeless. Centered on the Zuccotti Park Occuppation, those who identified as Occupiers set examples either by creating and/or joining a local occupation, or through an online espousing of solidarity we now call clicktivism.
The end result of both movements are eerily similar. The Tea Party has become a somewhat ethereal byword for Republican “insurgents.” Occupy, meanwhile, has faded among popular culture into a time when the youth became conscientiously angry as only young people who have no idea where they’re going can. Both of whom have yet to get hold of any real power beyond adding parameters to vote predictions. Of course, they have both left a deep impression with their respective parties, in their own way. However, the diffusion of political influence has only gotten harder post-Citizens United.
Super PACs are now a house hold word and serve to further distance the workings of democracy. Where once you needed only to be enough of a nerd to consider politics seriously (and maybe have some personality) to run, it is now a money game, period. Gone the way of the Dodo, a few signs no longer cut it when a candidate for judge can whip out professional TV ads at prime time hours. However, TV is no longer the raiser of kids it was in the nineties. Although the quality of shows has supposedly increased, the median age of viewers is 44 and the Internet is no longer just for nerds and porn.
There are currently in excess of 20 different “social networking” sites just for Joe iPhone. In contrast to TV, the average of a regular Internet “user” is anywhere between 5 and 27. The Internet is for the young, and everyone on it has an annoying opinion they cast out to no one in particular, just laying out there on some holier-than-thou blog for people to actively search for, stumble upon, or just actively ignore like updates from Change.org.
This is significant in that the previous winner of an election was the effective winner of the information war – most signs in high traffic areas, most spots on TV, most endorsements by local figures, most babies kissed, most handshakes. Debates, on the other hand, have always been a last resort. “But debates are where we hear the candidates give their platform and skewer the other guy in a holy form of smack down as his ideas are proved to be stupid,” says anyone who consumes any type of media. Which is why any political advisor worth their salt knows to stay away from them. Debates are where the candidates have to stand up to real questions from both the moderator and their opponent. Debates are where the fence sitters decide. Debates are no longer the choreographed dances they once were, perfectly controlled by both sides for their structural benefit. Now no one controls the spice that is public discourse.
Discourse is now the domain of anyone with an Internet connection and an account on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc.
No longer is discourse solely the domain of those on TV or a widely printed page. Discourse is instead in the hands of the kind of people who made reality television the majority of television programming. For those politicians who previously controlled the macro of political discourse, the very word discourse will soon be, for them at least, the dirtiest word possible.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect the thoughts of the entire Tangents staff.
Cover Photo Source: http://bit.ly/1Ky3VO2.