Politics: The Importance of Style Over Substance

The August 15 issue of Entertainment Weekly featured interviews with presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama. It was a light interview in which the reporter asked questions like, “Who controls the remote in your home?” “What was the last movie you saw in a theatre?” “Who do you think made the best president in a TV show or movie?” Knowing the reporter wasn’t out to get them and that there wasn’t any wrong answer, the candidates felt free to be spontaneous and give readers a glimpse of how “normal” the men are without having an agenda to promote or talking points they had to stick to.

For instance, McCain likes ABBA. The first movie he ever saw was Bambi. And while he never voted for an American Idol contestant, his wife, Cindy, called in for Jordin Sparks of Glendale, AZ. He also thought that Dennis Haysbert on 24 made the best president and his favorite superhero is Batman.

Obama loves watching SpongeBob with his kids, thought Jeff Bridges in The Contender was the best president, watched M*A*S*H growing up, listens to blues, R&B and African dance music, and he likes Spider-Man.

The future of the free world didn’t hinge on the answers the men gave and didn’t give any insight to how either might govern, so why do such an interview?

In this day and age of 24/7 news coverage, image is more important than ever. It used to be that politicians were afraid to go on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or Saturday Night Live, now it’s mandatory stop to pick up some street cred. I’m sure they have handlers telling them, “You have to connect with the people. Voters have to see you as not only able to feel their pain, but as hip.”

While the fluff is fun, there is a down side to it. What if there is a perfectly strong, able leader out there, who could expertly navigate our country through the rough waters ahead, better than McCain or Obama? There probably is one out there, but he or she most likely isn’t photogenic, dynamic or lacks comic timing (along with money-that’s the most important ingredient). It’s sad to say that our population prefers style over substance and a politician who can’t roll with the flow and deliver one-liners on faux-news programs doesn’t have a chance of winning.

Here’s a scary thought. What if a voter reads the EW interview and says, “Hey, I like SpongeBob, too. Obama’s all right!” or “I’m a Batman fan, also. McCain. I’m voting for you.” I would hope no one would make the important decision of who to vote for based on the article, but I’m sure there are those out there. Only their reasoning wouldn’t be as transparent as what I wrote above. It would sound more like, “There’s some reason I don’t like that guy. I don’t what it is. I just have a bad feeling about him. So I’m gonna vote for the other man.”

Making decisions based on a gut instinct is nothing new, but it can be idiotic when there is absolutely no logical thought thrown in with it.

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