One of the fascinating things to me about the Presidential race this year is the fact that the candidates themselves are calling attention to the machinations behind politics. And this is happening on the Republican side, long the party that favored getting the adults in a room and working out deals (in comparison to the image of Democrats as ideologues).
First, Trump calls out super-pacs. This in itself isn’t that revolutionary – candidates often decry each other’s reliance on big campaign financiers, and how this reliance is a flaw of the American system. In Trump’s case, however, he said exactly what this money buys: direct access and influence. He talked openly about how he could simply call one of the politicians he gave money to, and (in essence) get what he wanted done. That next step, I think, broke a lot of unwritten rules and made some folks wonder if Trump is trolling the Republican Party.
The next episode was Chris Christie’s attack on Rubio in the last debate (Feb. 6). Again, the initial argument is to me a routine one – one candidate attacks the other on an issue that makes sense – does the attackee have enough experience? What’s interesting is the next step that Christie takes, when he calls out directly how Rubio’s answers are tailored, noting the 25 second soundbyte “written by his advisers” and the inability to move beyond that point. And Christie doesn’t just note the first time that Rubio does this: he calls Rubio out each time.
I wonder where this sudden desire to point out the man behind the curtain is coming from. It might simply be that Christie is a bit desperate and is angry about Rubio’s teflon qualities. It might also be the ways in which Christie is trying to portray himself as the ever-popular Washington outsider. In any case, it’s a fascinating reveal into parts of the process itself.
I’m curious, though, if any of this sort of exposure happens without this new world of digital culture. I am guessing that watching Rubio choke on stage is good theater and spectacle, and that in itself would have been pointed out in any era. Does the need for tweet content and clicks, though, somehow drive this process in ways that exceed what we have seen in the past? The answer to me seems obvious (yesyesyesyesyesyes)…