Every Monday through Thursday I have a routine with my dad. Right at 10 p.m. we sit down to watch an episode of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report.” Both are political comedies based on current events. Recently, I feel like the hosts of these shows haven’t had to do much work; making fun of politics isn’t much of a challenge these days. they used to tell a part of the news and then came the punch line. At this point, the news is the punch line.
It feels like the election has transitioned into slapstick comedy: just a series of stupid actions done purely for a laugh. This is not the fault of either of the candidates or their campaigns. I hate to fall in line with all those who cry, “It’s the media’s fault,” but this time it is.
A gaffe is a social or diplomatic blunder according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary. Well, just a few days ago, I watched an hour-long analysis of a gaffe President Barack Obama made. In an interview he stated “You can’t change Washington from the inside.” I watched two political analysts break this statement down and draw overarching conclusions about the president. They decided solely with that warrant that President Obama no longer thought a president could change anything.
The president spends many hours a day speaking at some public platform. Every human being is bound to misspeak at some point. I can’t with 100 percent assurance say that the president believes he can’t bring change in his second term. On the other hand, analysts can’t deduct the thoughts of the president simply based off of one statement. Some will try to claim gaffes like this are Freudian slips and provide an insight to subconscious thoughts, but this is a stretch.
This kind of analysis is even more outlandish when it comes to a leaked statement by presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The tape shows Romney stating the 47 percent of Americans will never vote for him because they don’t pay taxes at a $50,000 a plate dinner. All of the major news sources decided to take this one statement and blow it up to epic proportions.
Now this gaffe is different from the president’s in many ways. It was never denied in any way; Romney himself at a press conference confirmed the statement. He did not misspeak; he was simply trying to convey a very specific message for fundraising. To many this is not a justification that he said it just to get more donations. Maybe not, but that’s a person’s decision to make. However, one thing is guaranteed: Romney doesn’t actually believe 47 percent won’t vote for him. If he did, he wouldn’t be running.
Gaffe: the overblown statement that determines this election. After that tape of Romney was released there was an almost immediate drop in polls in various key battleground states. I find that to be totally absurd. One small statement with a clear audience and motivation caused thousands of voters to change their minds about who is best fit to lead the country. To my dad and I, such gaffes are simply something to laugh at every night. To many voters they have become a deciding factor.
The media and voters like to judge candidates by their character. It’s too boring to talk about the assets each candidate has; instead focus is given to 30 second sound bites that antagonize a candidate.
I have a worrisome feeling that this election is going to be decided by the gaffes. It will no longer be about policy. It will be about who can keep their mouth shut to prevent mistakes from spewing out.
I hold out a single hope and that is for the upcoming debates. As a debater here at East, I believe in the power of debate and the educational discussion that comes with it. This election will be one that sets a lasting precedence, and only time will tell whether policy or perverse punditry will win.