Western Courier

It pays to be informed

Michael Lowe

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It’s already happening again, in Macomb and everywhere else. Until next fall, Americans, whether they claim to be “political” or not, will be subjected to a nearly endless stream of stories and advertisements about the November 2012 presidential elections. In the short term, the Republican Party is sifting through its possible candidates to find an acceptable challenge to President Obama, though recent events have caused a few to doubt that Obama’s Democratic nomination is a certainty, the legitimacy of such claims remains to be seen.

There’s almost no chance that anyone will avoid all of this electoral information, save a few Neo-Luddites. Politics today are like that, and there are as many opportunities as challenges for people who want to learn about the candidates.

It’s extremely early in the game as far as an actual electoral outcome is concerned, but most Americans might not know that from watching TV and reading the news. Photos of presidential hopefuls holding babies and speaking in front of barns will abound, likely in the absence of much coverage on these candidates’ actual platforms.

The debates, if one chooses to call them that, will feature quotable attacks on interparty opponents or the current President, and possibly few statements of policy. The likelihood of direct answers to the questions posed, no matter who’s debating or which media outlet is covering it, is low.

That won’t stop the rush of information about the candidates and possible electoral outcomes. The media will report on a wide variety of irrelevant events, and it’s a blessing and a curse. One can only imagine the coverage if something like Ted Kennedy’s infamous “Chappaquiddick incident” or some such event happened to one of the current candidates actually on the campaign trail today.

There will be more non-stories reported than Americans are ready for, and each potential voter is at the mercy of his or her own assumptions and interpretations. There are ways of using this immense amount of information productively, though.

Consulting a wide variety of news sources from all perspectives might be a good idea. Try to understand these sources and candidates on their own terms, remembering the realities of political opportunism, and remain a healthy skeptic about any claims of objectivity. Those who don’t seek fresh political perspectives, if only to provide a balance against their existing views, only do themselves an intellectual disservice.

Expressing one’s political beliefs, dispassionately or otherwise, is rarely a completely negative thing, but reason and facts can be much more meaningful. No candidate’s campaign promises have ever been fulfilled, and those who self-interestedly try to hold current officials to their word have a very shortsighted view of the realities of the American political system. Reading a variety of news sources-and, if you’re feeling ambitious, a little American history-will likely bear this out. Comparing today’s economic and military situations with those of America’s past can shed some light on constructive solutions and the difficulty of finding them in the political process.

It’s all right to disagree with a candidate, but do it for well-considered reasons. While so much time and information have yet to pass us by, now is the time to ask questions instead of making quick judgments. Leave that to the candidates.

There are a lot of developments that have yet to occur in this electoral cycle, but Americans can be sure that they’ll be updated on the entirety of the process on a momentary basis. As of right now nothing is certain, and the races for candidacy and the presidency will likely be close ones. One may look back fondly to the elections of, say, 1820 for its suggestion of national consensus, but today’s conditions are obviously much different.

Potential voters who take the time to find out as much relevant information as possible, while disregarding the incessant squabbling and photo ops, might find themselves better informed about local and national politics. It could provide a productive activity during an otherwise slow syllabus week. Or there’s always a bunch of vodka Red Bull shots and an episode of Teen Mom. It’s your call.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
It pays to be informed