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"Horserace Approach" to Covering Presidential Politics is Disservice to Voters, Writes Prof. Kevin Howley

January 22, 2008

Kevin Howley 2008 wd.jpgJanuary 22, 2008, Greencastle, Ind. - "This year's presidential election campaign is historic all right, but for all the wrong reasons," writes Kevin Howley, associate professor of communication at DePauw University, in this week's Bloomington Alternative. "It's a sure bet that the Democratic presidential candidate will either be 1) a woman or 2) an African-American. But before we get all misty eyed about how progressive our politics have become, we'd best heed Sen. Clinton's advice and take a 'reality check.'"

Howley foresees an election "season in hell" in which "that mythic creature commonly referred to as 'the two-party system'" creates little in the way of real drama or ABC Debate 2008.jpgdebate, so that "any pretense of substantive, political discourse has all but disappeared down the rabbit hole."

The professor writes, "The recent debates in New Hampshire and Las Vegas demonstrate the extent to which the system has been rigged to marginalize voices of dissent and opposition to the status quo." ABC's January 5 event was billed as "One Night, Two Parties," Dr. Howley notes, "But the real story was who wasn't invited to the party." Three candidates -- two Democrats and one Republican -- were excluded from that forum. The following night, Rep. Ron Paul was kept out of a FOX Republican debate. MSNBC later did the same to Democratic U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

"In each case, the networks contend that candidates are barred from participating in televised debates because they White House South.jpgfailed to meet certain benchmarks. (Maybe we should let the American TV networks have a crack at the Iraqi parliament). In any event, the network's criteria are murky at best and reflect the corporate media's tendency to anoint so-called 'front runners' and dismiss 'also rans' as they see fit."

Howley asserts, "None of this bares even the faintest resemblance to democratic politics," adding, "It's no coincidence that candidates like Paul, Gravel and Kucinich are excluded because their views don't correspond with those of the corporate oligarchs and their minions. And so we are treated to the horserace approach to presidential politics: he-said, she-said reports on candidates' strategies and tactics, breathless accounts of the reams of money being spent on political advertising and, of course, a seemingly endless parade of pundits howley community media.jpgand pollsters spinning the latest stump speech."

Howley, the author of Community Media: People, Places, and Communication Technologies, concludes: "In the weeks and months ahead we'd all do well to make effective use of independent media to cover the campaign with honesty and integrity. In times like these, a free press -- and by extension, a well-informed citizenry -- is the best remedy for a dysfunctional political culture."

Access the complete op-ed at the College News.org.

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