Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Best President Money and Media Can Buy

Six months from now, the most highly educated Americans in history will have chosen someone to lead them through hard times. In my lifetime, that process has advanced from control by political bosses in smoke-filled rooms to one dominated by media and money across the spectrum.

Tammany Hall is gone, but now thanks to Citizens United, we are in the hands of the Koch brothers and George Clooney’s Hollywood friends. If that doesn’t make us feel warm and safe, it shouldn’t.

“Freedom of the press,” A. J. Libeling wrote back then, “is limited to those own one.” Now cable and the Internet have made publishers of us all, misinformation is spread more democratically by Rupert Murdoch and rabid bloggers, but do voters understand more than they did then?

To ensure they don’t, Democrats and Republicans will swamp them in a tide of money. The President’s campaign will try to match GOP Super PACs with a “Super-O-Rama” to offset Karl Rove’s Crossroads and the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity.

The TV commercials to be spewed out by such deformed spawn of the First Amendment will do nothing to further rational debate of issues, only becloud them with appeals to a national id of prejudice, political elitism and class hatred.

In contrast, the sound-bite circus of Obama-Romney debates will seem like Lincoln-Douglas. Yet they will only underscore the ugly atmosphere in which a President is being chosen, as “journalists” do little to clarify underlying issues and ramp up the bear-baiting, point-scoring involved.

There is, as any sane observer knows, an overriding clash of visions for America’s future at the heart of this election year, but its people may have a choice only of tendentious appeals to the worst in them.

The smoke-filled back rooms of the political bosses gave us a mixed bag of choices from FDR to Harry Truman. Is the enlightened era of their money-and-media counterparts doing any better?

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