Presidential candidates should campaign with paper bags over their heads. When the election is over the winner can pull the bag off so we can see who we voted for. Why? To stop voters from casting ballots because of hype and overblown expectations.
Sometimes voting for hype means we get lucky. Sometimes we lose. Losing can have dire consequences. Voting for hype brought us rising star Barack Obama and a little-known Georgia governor who has become the archetype for presidential disaster. In 2016 we could end up with a Clinton or Cruz presidency, but will we know why?
Two kinds of celebrity politicians
We have a tradition of favoring celebrity politicians. They may not know anything about politics, but celebrities are familiar and in the spotlight. They get votes because many voters like them. Usually celebrity politicians are Hollywood types but they can be real politicians, too. Just like a Tinsel town movie, media hype blurs the distinction between the celebrity we like to think is running and the truth.
Vote for Cruz, Clinton, or hype?
Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton are celebrity politicians. They are candidates voters will quickly decide whether or not to vote for even if they have never heard a single word come from their mouths. They are recognized instantly and many voters have already heard what they want to believe about them from the media.
Does it matter what Cruz, Clinton, or any other candidate stands for once the media and their respective parties have finished their makeovers? So few Americans bother to vote, how do we know what the ones who do are voting for when so much of what they have been subjected to is hype, both positive and negative?
I like Ted Cruz. He might be a good president, though given who we have now just about anyone who can walk and talk will fit the bill. The excitement over his candidacy is a problem, though. It is in part a reaction to Republican failures and the distance between Cruz and another celebrity politician, Barack Obama.
Payback, revenge, false hopes, and failure
Candidate hype and political reality are two different animals
Remember Jimmy Carter’s denim-decked “Man of the Year” TIME magazine cover? Carter rode into office as a dark horse just like Barack Obama, who adorned the 2012 cover, another successful creation of media hype that those of us familiar with his record in Congress are still shaking our heads over. That’s what happens when an artificially rising star gets the better of us.
Many of us who will vote for Cruz if he wins the nomination haven’t been too happy with John Boehner. Despite the anti-Tea Party leanings of centrist Republicans, Boehner felt emboldened to push Cruz to do what the speaker wouldn’t do in the House:
We won this fight in the House, now the fight must be won in the United States Senate. It’s time for Senator Cruz, Senator Sessions, Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats to stand with the American people and to block the president’s actions.”1
That’s the kind of reputation Cruz has earned in the Senate, one that begs for RINOish duplicity to join Democratic anti-Tea Party rhetoric to create an extremist. The pre-primary season is young. Unlike Democrats who will get behind one person, Republican hopefuls have a lot of backstabbing to do. When the backstabbing starts we will hear a completely different kind of hype.
The best of intentions mean nothing with a hostile or gridlocked Congress. Words that don’t translate into policy don’t get the job done, either, and brave words before or just after an election get people in trouble. That what happened to the GOP after the 2010 election: big promises, lots of hype before and after, false hopes, and failure. The jury is still out on 2014.
Hype means voters expect too much
Here’s the question: if we didn’t know who Cruz or Clinton are, would their stance on the issues sound the same, or would we hear something different?
It may be heresy in conservative circles, but if Ted Cruz wins the GOP nomination we shouldn’t vote for the candidate we will hear about. Voting for hype means voting for a media creation. Is Cruz the candidate Republicans need? Is Clinton the match for liberals? If we strip away the hype and reduce them to their words, we might not hear what we are being programmed to expect.
Conservative Republicans will vote for a crusading Tea Partier who will correct the wrongs of Obama and set the GOP straight. Those are pretty big expectations. Perhaps if reality tempered the hype over a candidate whose reputation fits our desire to put an end to business as usual in Washington we would see him for who he is and what he might really be able to do.