Who are the 2008 Presidential Candidates – Really?

The media seem to be treating the 2008 presidential race like the movie box office ratings. I hear plenty about the money each candidate has raised. I hear plenty about who is ahead in “the polls” and who has fallen behind. ButI have heard NEXT TO NOTHING about what any of these candidates stands for or where they want to take us. All I have are general impressions.

Is this the fault of the media for not digging this stuff out and presenting it to the teeming millions in understandable terms? Or is it the candidates themselves who only speak in generalities so that we can’t find out anything about them? We’ll certainly learn NEXT TO NOTHING from the TV ads that they’ll spend all their money on.

Can the media even handle the job? Are the issues so complex that the media can’t adequately cover the differences between candidates in a column of print or a 1-minute TV clip?

I suppose what I’m asking is:

Is this any way to elect a president?

It’s a game we all play together. If a candidate takes a clear position on one side of any meaningful issue he’s going to lose voters on the other side. Candidates who avoid taking clear positions also avoid offending voters and get elected.

Meanwhile, the various media have a choice - do they offer their audience thoughtful and in-depth information or do they skim the surface for the most provocative bits and present them with a lot of flash? Guess which way the majority of people watchs?

And we, the voters and viewers, reward the candidates who are vague and ambiguous and the media that are shallow and glittery.

Actually it is about money. Every headline refers to the money race. if you can’t raise the cash your issues are irrelevant.So frontrunner Hillary is being caught by Obamas new money raising ability. Edwards is having trouble keeping up.
Irony is that the race for money is heavily stressed by the TV media. The ones who will be getting it.

This isn’t a new thing, by the way, although it’s certainly bad.

Not to let the news off the hook, because they DO cover it like it’s a horse race, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find out about these things. You’re not doing yourself any favors if you just wait for CNN to tell you what everybody stands for.

As far as the “is this any way to elect a President?”- I’d like to know how our system is different from other democracies.

I’ll admit there are problems with a system where the TV networks get to declare who’s a serious candidate on the basis of who’s giving the TV networks the most money.

Oh for Pete’s sake. You can find out anything you want to know about these people. There’s the internet. There are books. There are magazines that still practice responsible journalism. Like Marley23 says, you can’t just sit around and wait for the news networks or USA Today to give you decent information, because they won’t. Nor will the candidates when they’re on the stump, unfortunately. But these people leave a big wake.

In France – I heard this discussed only yesterday on All Things Considered – all candidates for president are allotted the same 45 minutes of free air time. Nobody is allowed to buy air time. And for ten days before the election, no political advertising is allowed at all, to give everybody some quiet time to reflect. And campaign budgets are strictly capped.

More on the French campaign-financing system here.

Certainly. Anyone can do this. But I wonder how many do. The only thing most people know at this point is who has the most money and who is ahead in the polls.

If they’ve paid a little more attention they might know McCain supports the Iraq war, Guiliani was Mayor of New York on 9/11, Clinton voted for the war, Obama is black with 2 years in the Senate, Edwards has a $400 haircut, and Romney’s first name is Mitt.

Oh well, I suppose I don’t have to know anything more because my state’s primary will be held after everthing is already decided by the people in California, who all will have used books, magazines and the internet to make an intelligent choice.

True, and not good. On the other hand, conventional wisdow is that most people won’t start paying attention to the candidates for almost a year, and then will follow the election starting around Labor Day. And as long as there’s a record of what the candidates are saying and doing, there’s nothing really wrong with that. The campaign is going this early because the candidates feel like they need that much money, not because they really need a year to explain their positions before the primaries.

Remember, it’s 2007. There’s no story except the money race and the polls. This is a year before the primaries even start, for crying out loud. Most people are not paying attention at this point, and for good reason.

And the money race might seem a bit crass, but it’s also a rough proxy for how deep a candidate’s support is. If you can’t get people to support your campaign, how can you be expected to get people to support your campaign? The people complaining about the money race have things backwards. People who raise lots of money don’t then go on to use that money to buy the election. People who are popular raise lots of money. Of course there’s a feedback loop, where money translates to exposure which translates to popularity which translates to donations. But if you’re an unappealing candidate that exposure WON’T translate to popularity, the more people see you the more they’ll hate you.

And note that at this early date, candidates aren’t using their campaign funds to buy media exposure yet. So they are collecting donations, but the donations aren’t yet being used to buy more donations. And these donations are from politically aware people, not casual voters.

It is way past time to have public financing, but we ask the ones who it gives an insurmountable advantage to fix it. We need a huge groundswell .The present system is poisoned by money and influence peddling.

Plans like this have been proposed in the United States. But it’s generally been held that the First Amendment prohibits such limits (rulings which I personally concur with).

Well there’s always parliamentary government, where the “president” is elected by the legislative branch rather than the people.

And of course, theoretically in the US, the president is elected by the electoral college rather than the people. But given that the two have almost always voted the same, it seems to have not made a large difference.

Given the services offered by the Pink Sapphire in Manchester, New Hampshire, at least according to their website, I don’t believe he was getting haircuts. More likely he was getting facials and exfoliating scrubs, which frankly would look worse to certain Democratic voters.

I know, I know. But it’s time the SC revisited that question. Well-reasoned counterargument here.

Money is not speech.

I gotta admit, that’s a tough one to argue against, Lemur. :slight_smile:

I’m surprised the Edwards campaign hasn’t come out with something like “Edwards believes in pumping money into the local economy. If you have a problem with that you have a problem with capitalism!”