Sunday, May 15, 2011

They Enter the Ring, Then Decide to Fight

Some of the big political news this weekend has been that Mike Huckabee has decided against running for the Republican nomination for the presidency. In my view, the main significance of that announcement is that it is yet another clear demonstration of the absolute absurdity of modern political campaigns. You see, I was under the impression that he was already running. The election is, after all, only a frigging year and a half away. Apparently, on the timescale of American politics, that means we’re getting awfully close, and that it’s time to get everything organized, all the resources apportioned, all the players on the field.

We already had a debate for the would-be Republican candidates. Huckabee was there. How can a person decide not to run after they’ve already voluntarily appeared on television as one of a group of candidates for the position? Either Huckabee is really behind the eight ball in determining what his aspirations are, or Fox News was ridiculously premature in bringing us a presidential debate in May of the year before that in which the election is to be held.

Huckabee seemingly doesn’t want to have to take his focus away from the attention he’s able to bring to the issues from his current post at Fox News. I guess he thinks that his job is to be a commentator, not a campaigner. It would be nice if outlets like Fox considered their jobs to be the provision of news, rather than of an outlet for political campaigns. Presumably, there’s a lot that can be done by the government in the space of a year and a half. And presumably, in a democracy, public pressure, with its genesis in a free and active media, has a substantial role to play in that. I imagine we would stand to make a lot more progress if we were collectively focused on what currently is happening in our own country, rather than whom we might put into or keep in power sometime in the future.

Let’s be clear also about our assessment of Huckabee’s decision that his heart is not in a run for the presidency. Surely, in addition to not wanting to give up his sway with the public, he doesn’t want to give up that nice income he’s earning from the television gig. That’s perfectly understandable, although one does wonder how sincere a person’s drive towards public service is if it can be derailed by the threat of reduced income. Still, even if he was genuinely uncertain about whether his loyalties lay with money or with his vision for public policy, it would have been highly admirable if he had arrived at a decision before he started playing both sides of that issue.

So I’m looking for either of two breaking points, here. Can we push the media to start focusing on the here-and-now of political legislation and machination, rather than pouring so much of itself into the more attention grabbing, less substantive detour that is the circus of constant campaigning? Or else, will the politicians who wish to enter that circus in the first place please do so either earnestly and for the right reasons, or not at all?

No comments: