Can’t decide 2012: Can TV influence your vote?

I’ve been following the Republican debates pretty closely, but because of my busy schedule, I don’t always have three hours to sit with my jaw on the floor.

Seriously, some of the things these candidates say make me want to pull my hair out or put bendy straws in my eyes. Rick Santorum called President Barack Obama a “snob” for promoting higher education. Santorum also said a speech delivered by President John F. Kennedy, which advocated for an absolute separation of church and state, made him want to “throw up.”

In such a heated contest, it is incredibly important for GOP candidates to appeal to the ethos of their constituents. This election hasn’t been just about policy, but also morals and character. Although ethics are important to consider when selecting a presidential candidate, we also need operative leadership that gives voters a sense of direction.

Luckily, two playful pundits have been picking apart this persuasive rhetoric and looking for substance, like men at the beach with metal detectors.

Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” and Stephen Colbert’s “The Colbert Report” dominate Comedy Central’s late-night lineup with sharp-witted commentary, and neither have a shortage of material. Stewart’s recurring segment, “The Long, Winding, Bumpy-Ass Road to the White House,” displays clips of the latest comments made by our potential GOP candidates. On Feb. 27, Stewart pondered Santorum’s sick-to-his-stomach speech, posing the question, “Were you reading it in a car?”

Rather than simply mocking these candidates, Colbert and Stewart encourage respectful discourse and invite a milieu of guests onto their shows for interviews. Open-mindedness means a lot to me, and as a semi-regular viewer, I appreciate this gesture because it shows a willingness to learn and appreciation for diversity of opinion.

Admittedly, the issues these candidates address in debates and town halls are serious and have the potential to impact millions of Americans, including students. However, if we focus too much upon the negativity and grandstanding plaguing this contest, it’ll be difficult to even select a candidate without losing faith in the process.

It can be challenging to make politics relatable to an average Jane like myself, so it’s smart of these chaps to serve up policy in a comedic coating. I’m also spurred to look up these issues myself, so “The Daily Show” is usually only a springboard for my interest in politics. Viewers respond positively to this format, and research from Fairleigh Dickinson University has indicated that regular viewers of the show “pick up a lot more information than they would from other news sources.” And you thought TV was a bunch of mindless garbage.

 

Reach the columnist at aamentze@asu.edu

 

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