Politics: "Serious" Candidates?

So Hillary Clinton and John Edwards were caught off-mic after the latest debate
saying that they want smaller debates, with more “serious candidates” (read the details). “They’re not serious. They’re not serious,” Edwards said.

This whole concept of “serious” and “not serious” candidates and ideas really sticks in my craw. The political elite, the media and the pundit caste are wielding totalitarian control over the national discussion by deciding for us what is and what isn’t “serious.”

Atrios summed it up well, in this post:

Still, the media industrial complex has a great amount of power to determine what “serious” and “unserious” people advocate, simply by labeling people as “serious” and “unserious.” Right now the “serious” position is that some sort of open-ended occupation of Iraq is inevitable, and anyone who suggests otherwise is a very silly person. In fact, they’re probably the kind of very silly person who thought that this whole Iraq thing was a bad idea to begin with. Ridiculous!

But, yes, I would like the people who advocate this 50,000 forever model to actually spend a few seconds thinking about just what they imagine those troops spending their days doing.

For real, the media is ignoring what they deem “unserious” ideas.
Bring every soldier home and abandon a “humanitarian mission” where the objects of our benevolence are waging tireless guerrilla war against us? Preposterous! We can’t listen to hippies and defeatocrats like Nick! After all, leaving some small residual force in Vietnam worked out fine, right?

Why is the media imposing a perpetual blackout on such ideas?

Why are the grassroots candidates (Ron Paul, Kucinich, Gravel, etc.) being essentially ignored by the media?

Why is this? Who decided Hillary was “top tier” when almost EVERY liberal I know (including me) is uneasy to outright hostile toward her?

And Giuliani, he is the frontrunner for the Republicans. How the hell did an abortion-funding, cross-dressing womanizer get to be the frontrunner for the “traditional values” party? A big site for GOP activists. FreeRepublic, has purged all Giuliani supporters and deleted all pro-Rudy sentiments. And yet the media continues to treat him as the head of top tier! wtf?

To decide who is “top tier” are we supposed to robotically follow the polls? National polling at this point in the ’04 election cycle showed Joe Lieberman was the Democratic frontrunner.
I don’t think the “scientific” polls showing Fred Thompson (who has yet to even enter the race) ahead of Mitt Romney have any more credibility than MySpace polls at this point.

Personally, I think polls should be ignored in both primaries and policymaking. We are entering an era where more and more people are using cell phones (which are unlisted) and are out of the reach of pollsters, rendering polls increasingly unreliable.

Besides, would Thomas Jefferson or John Adams dither over whether or not their proposals had a 44% or 58% approval rating?

What happened to courage? We are not descended from fearful men! I wish we could move past the era where politicians won’t even change fashion styles without consulting pollsters (remember Al Gore’s focus-grouped “earth tones” suits?)

But I don’t think it’s the polls leading the media to ignore “lower tier” candidates (though that is a big part of it) and I don’t think the media has an inherent leftist or rightist bias (aside from some reports here and there, and glaring exceptions, like Fox News). I think it’s money and power. Like in many things American, the answer is this: the bottom line is the bottom line.

CNN, NBC, etc. have a conflict of interest. They want that $23 million Mitt Romney is sitting on and the $17 million Giuliani has to go to their stations for ad buys. They won’t spend much time on candidates that can’t funnel huge amounts of advertising money to them.

Once Romney led the GOP field in fundraising, and his fundraising success became a top story, he became anointed a “top tier” candidate. And now he’s embedded inside the media psychology as a top tier guy. If you wondered why a feature on Romney was above the fold on NYTimes.com recently, even though he’s polling at 12% and lagging behind Fred Thompson, that’s why.

Money buys ads which buys name recognition which gets you up in the polls (“hayyyyy, I’ve seen that name before, they must be competent!”) Then the media covers you more. Then the rank and file want to see only the “top tier” and ban the “crackpots.”

In order to be recognized, you must first have recognition, and in order to have recognition, you must first be recognized–which is shorthand for:
*robot voice* “only official party-approved candidates….*beep*…only candidates approved by the media elite….*beep*”

The media just cater to money and power. It’s like that famous moment in The Simpsons, when news anchor Kent Brockman sees a magnified ant on the screen, wrongly assumes space ants are invading, and tries his best to ingratiate himself to his new alien masters, saying “…one thing is for certain: there is no stopping them; the ants will soon be here. And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.”

The message: most of the media will bow to whoever is on the throne, no matter how evil they are.

But because money = power in our system, it all begins with money.

If Kucinich or Ron Paul raised $15 million in a quarter, they’d have media all over them. Paul’s idea that gee, maybe bombing the Mideast throughout the Clinton years provoked 9/11 wouldn’t be demonized as “crackpot” and Kucinich’s bill for a non-profit health system would be viable. Having money behind it would give it clout.

To ever get serious change, we need more candidates with new ideas. Money is determining everything and stifling progress on nearly every issue. I don’t think this de facto oligarchy is what the framers had in mind.

If we want serious ideas viewed as “serious” again, we need to break down the money = power formula. We have to support public financing of elections!