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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Inanity of Electability

Political writers like a good story, a horserace, a poll, which is why election coverage in this country resembles sports more than it does democracy. One artifact of this tendency is the "electability" issue, the supposed obsession of voters with which of their party's candidates is most able to win the general election.

Electability represents one thing:

The ability of the media to set the terms of the debate during an election. Instead of picking the candidate who best fits their political beliefs or inspires them, political writers like to think that the average voter spends his time like the backroom party leaders of old, smoking cigars and strategizing who can win. And since that's a more interesting story to write, when election time comes that's all people can remember hearing/reading about when they go to the polls - who the media thought was most electable.

The beautiful irony is that John Kerry was anointed the "more electable" candidate by the press prior to the 2004 general election. And he lost, worse than Al Gore (another electable guy). Candidates fit the requirements the electorate sets for them, whether in terms of experience, honesty, values, or inspiration. But these days, it seems like the press would have us use only one criteria - electable.

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