Some Suggested Questions

In the presidential race, the media have a responsibility to go beyond the superficial question, “Who is ahead?” It is worth asking, “Who ought to be ahead?”
by Jim Fair | Source:
When it comes to political campaigns, the news media likes a horse race.

In other words, they like it when there are several candidates and the outcome is in doubt. That certainly is the case in 2008. So the media are happy.

I’m not. That’s because the media are covering the elections like, well, a horse race.

Here comes Barack out of the gate, looking strong. But here’s Hillary, picking up the pace and closing fast. Rudy is gaining steam on the first turn, but here comes Mitt down the backstretch. And now it’s Fred, spinning out of the turn. It’s Barack…no, it’s Mike…no, it’s Hillary…no it’s Rudy…what a race!!!

And if this really were a horse race, this would be a logical, exciting way to cover it. But it isn’t. This is a political race and there is a big difference.

First, a horse race has limited consequences. Horse breeders and trainers win and lose along with their horses. Uncle Louis may lose a few bucks by betting on that long shot in the third race. But is really is just a game.

A political race, on the other hand, has real consequences for the country. Unlike horses, politicians think (at least in theory) and their positions impact the issues of the day.

Each morning when I look at the news, I learn who is ahead in which poll. I can read various commentators speculating on whether men will vote for a woman, Caucasians will vote for an African American, Evangelicals will vote for a Morman or Midwesterners will vote for a New Yorker.

All of this is interesting – to a point. But it might be instructive to learn where the various candidates stand on issues such as health care, national security and taxes. And it would be even more interesting to see a little analysis on what results have come from similar stands in the past.

Do higher taxes increase or decrease government revenue? Does public housing increase or decrease poverty? Will I be safer if we have a bigger army?

The media have a responsibility to go beyond the superficial question, “Who is ahead?” Isn’t it worth asking, “Who ought to be ahead?”


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