The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Media jumps the gun with 2016 presidential election coverage

4 min read
From the relentless Chris Christie bridge scandal coverage to speculation within Time magazine and the New York Times, the American news media are determined to push American politics forward by two years; but why? Could it be that our current political environment is stagnant?

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From the relentless Chris Christie bridge scandal coverage to speculation within Time magazine and the New York Times, the American news media are determined to push American politics forward by two years; but why? Could it be that our current political environment is stagnant?

Stories about NSA spying revelations, President Barack Obama’s receding popularity, and the passing of a budget through midterm elections are all stale and depressing.

These are valid and probable reasons for the big push forward on election talk.

However, the overarching theme that permeates through all of the coverage and pundit analysis is this: the many shortcomings of the current administration and Congress are being pushed into the background while pointless speculation swirls around two politicians who may not even run or earn their party’s nomination.

Moreover, the determination of the media to transform the politicians in Washington into celebrities further distorts their image, and in turn marginalizing their faults while over glorifying their triumphs.

2013 was quite possibly one of the worst years in American politics. As Obama became a lame duck president, low approval ratings broke records as the number of people in the workforce fell to a record low.

A government shutdown left the majority of Americans disenchanted with the state of things politically.

Negative signs arise when comparing Obama to former President George W. Bush’s approval ratings at this time in his second term the former president never recovered from his low favorability.

Moreover, partisanship runs higher than ever before and recently brought the Senate to a standstill. If the bar was set low in 2013, it is lower in 2014. The future of Washington hangs in a precarious balance between stalemate and partisan warfare.

There should be no illusions: 2014 is set up to be a slow year.

On the other hand, 2014 will possibly be an interesting year. In a handful of battleground states, senate elections leave the potential for excitement and change high, thanks in part to the opposing messages Democrats and Republicans will run on.

Washington is facing universal unpopularity and sabers like the Affordable Care Act and the shutdown make the 2014 elections difficult, particularly in the Commonwealth of Virginia, where Sen. Mark Warner will face off against Republican Ed Gillespie.

However, the promise of new lawmakers on Capital Hill seems to be ignored in large part because of the fixation on the office of the executive.

There is certainly a case to be made that the executive dwarfs all other branches in intrigue and fascination, and rightfully so considering the president is the only government official elected by the nation as a whole.

Consider the Obamas, for example, everything they do is covered by major news networks-what they eat, where they go and what they say.

Some political scientists attribute this to the pseudo-celebrity status that many presidents have taken on.

To prove this true, one only has to think about President John F. Kennedy’s image or Reagan’s as a great communicator.

Conversely, one could point to presidents like Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter or George H.W. Bush, all who were much more low-key and reserved.

The significance of this is in the image they are crafting. From Obama’s visits to Jimmy Fallon to Michelle’s bangs on Vogue, they are essentially being moved from President and First Lady to celebrity.

It is not only the Obamas, however, but many politicians; it has been a trend going back the last fifty years.

Consider Speaker of the John Boehner’s visit to Jay Leno this week-he is the Speaker of the greatest deliberative body in the world acting like a comedian on a late-night program.

While there are arguments to be made about the ends of this effort, what is not disputable, however, is the current love affair between our media and all things 2016.

Time magazine published an issue this week, notable for its bizarre cover featuring former First Lady and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton as a planet.

Pointing out the immense stockpiling of campaign funds by Democratic PACs, the article makes a compelling case for her run in 2016. The New York Times published an issue that featured a cover of Clinton’s heel and questioned who would challenge her for the White House in 2016.

Conversely, the same magazines, and many others, have been skewering New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a potential candidate for the 2016 GOP nomination, following the surfacing of emails that show his staffers set up a traffic jam along the George Washington Bridge as retribution for a mayor’s failure to endorse him. From “bully” to “thug,” Christie has been battered in an attempt to disqualify the ultra-popular Republican from running in 2016.

Now, if you are like me, you are probably just sitting here thinking “why does any of this matter?” You are right; why does it matter? We have an election cycle between 2016 and an abundance of real problems that Americans ought to be informed about.

From the continuing American-Iranian discussions to the expansion of gay rights, there are a litany of things more important to Americans at the moment.

Besides, for all the speculation, pundits have not had a very good track record as of late, such as when they predicted Hillary to win the 2008 Democratic primary.

On the other end of the aisle, given the nature of Republican primaries, Gov. Christie has a razor-thin chance of being elected. In fact, he is openly referred to by many of his own party on Capitol Hill as a “RINO” (Republican in name only).

While there is nothing we can do about the barrage of 2016 election talk, we can take solace in the fact that the present is both certain and interesting.

All in all, there are much more pressing matters in the world, and, while speculation on future presidents is interesting, it is irrelevant given the state of the nomination processes and the volatile and ever changing nature of politics.