Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Time for Show and Tell

It is time for our quadrennial political game of Survivor. Right about now the contestants for this game will begin to line up. Over the next several months “we the people” will begin to cast our votes in earnest to keep or kick off those players who more or less endear themselves to us.

Of course we are talking about the race for the White House. Republican candidates are beginning to line up to compete against our incumbent President, Barack Obama. The Presidential race for 2012 is on. Prerequisite to participate is a certain level of name recognition, access to the best image consultants and vast sums of money.

For those new to this amazing race imagine a grown up game of “show and tell.”

Candidates over the next number of months will amass thousands of frequent miles and hope for an equal number of frequent smiles. Candidates will earn our respect by demonstrating, by showing us, their readiness to be president. The only thing close to the challenge of being president is surviving the challenge of running for president. These candidates will do more than show us, however, they will go to all ends to tell us.

Handlers, those responsible for branding winnable images, know that actions are not enough. “With words we govern men,” Disraeli said. Sound bites and stock speeches will be given in hopes of connecting to the zeitgeist of our time. Obama’s carefully scripted claim to “audacity” and “hope” and “change” carried the “skinny little man with a funny sounding name” all the way to the White House in 2008.

This game of “Show and Tell” is nothing new. We learn about reality through both visualization and story telling. We always have. Greek philosophers wrote extensively about the human need to both see and hear the truth. Showing is the Greek word “mimesis” and the telling is the Greek word “diegesis.”

As we experience the commencement of another presidential election season, let us hope the candidates have learned from past experiences. Hopefully their talents will be more “mimesis” than mere “diegesis.” Show us rather than tell us. Words are cheap.

Walter Benjamin’s classic text, “On the Mimetic Faculty” (1933), can teach us all something:

“Nature creates similarities. One need only think of mimicry. The highest capacity for producing similarities, however, is man’s. His gift of seeing resemblances is nothing other than a rudiment of the powerful compulsion in former times to become and behave like something else. Perhaps there is none of his higher functions in which his mimetic faculty does not play a decisive role.”

To win decisively a presidential candidate must become “one of us.” From our President we do not want more political platitudes. Promising “change” but settling for old routines is like bouncing a check. Do not make promises you cannot keep.

Rather, demonstrate on the campaign trail those qualities and characteristics we know all presidents require. Let us begin with intelligence, integrity and wisdom. These are the qualities we expect from ourselves.

Still feeling a little burned by recent elections, maybe “show and tell” is asking too much this time around. As for me, I would be happy with a game of “show.”



    What are PACs?

    Rose Meenaghan
    Conneen per.1


    This site metions Individual Expenditure notices-- what are they or what do they consist of?

    Christian Wilhelm
    Conneen Per 1


    If your a new candidate how do you get money from people in the beginning because they don't know you as well and who would want to sponsor someone that they didn't know.

    jenna przybyla
    conneen per 4


    Why would the Supreme Court allow corporations and unions to make donations in such a way that makes it hard for the public to know who is driving a candidate's political messages and policies? It doesn't seem right or fair.

    Erica Loken
    Conneen Per 1


    When it says that 88% of Obama's source of funds were from personal contributions, does that mean that that money came directly from Obama?

    Andrew LaGioia
    Period 1


    I noticed that some presidential candidates such as Christopher Dodd had negative donations from his party, how does this happen?

    Amanda McMullen


    In Mark Kirk’s personal finances a chart says he received no gifts. What constitutes as a gift and do most candidates ever receive any?

    Jeremy Philipp
    Coneen p.7

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    From the first graph it shows that conservatives spent more money on outside spending than liberals in 2010, but liberals historically spent more money. Also, spending has increased since 1990, but dipped in 2002 and 2006.

    Why are conservatives suddenly spending so much more money on outside spending and why did spending dip in 2002 and 2006?

    Ken Kancharla
    Period 1 Coneen


    Looking at the donor demographics, it shows that a lot of money was donated to PACs. What are PACs, and what's the benefit of donating money to them rather than directly to a political party?

    Sam Wasserman
    Period 1 Coneen


    Can PACs and 527 groups send out fliers and advertisements without a candidate's endorsement?

    Matthew Felz
    1st per Coneen


    How do PAC's decide how much they will contribute to the democrats, republicans, and independent parties?

    For example... In the 2010 election cycle the PAC’s contributed 55% to the Democrats and 45% to the Republicans for computers/ internet. How do they decide?


    What are PACs? How was ActBlue able to raise a record breaking amount of money in 2010 while in the midst of a recession?

    McKinley Imus
    Period 7 Coneen


    When the graph indicates that there is cash on hand, who/what determines which candidate receives that money for his/her campaign?

    Elliott Moy
    Period 4 Coneen


    I understand 527s raise money for voter mobilization, but it states non-federal groups also contribute to this effort. Then does the PAC take in this effect too? And the difference between the term of "soft money" versus "hard money"

    Jennifer Hwang


    Why did outside spending on campaigns increase so drastically in 2004?

    Sarah Glait
    Period 7 Conneen


    Do presidents have to approve of the message outside corporations say on TV?

    Ashton Wasserman


    Whats the difference between a leadership PAC and campaign committee?


    Why do Republicans tend to contribute more towards campaigns than Democrats?

    Scott Siegel
    Period 7 Conneen


    What do lobbyists do exactly?

    Emily Davis
    Conneen Period 4


    Why has outside spending increased so much from 1990 to 2010?