Saturday, September 1, 2012

Nominating Conventions as Propaganda

Anyone who could endure watching the now-completed Republican National Convention must now realize that these conventions (yes, I'm including the soon-to-begin Democratic National Convention) are nothing more than exercises in propaganda.  Whatever vestiges might have remained in terms of political drama at such conventions in the past have now been eradicated by the rise in significance of the primaries.  By the time of the conventions, the nomination of the party's candidate for the Presidency has been sewn up, and this is now a huge, pointless "celebration" to reward the political party faithful and to reinforce whatever ideas the political party wishes to emphasize down the home stretch of a campaign that by now has been going on for many long months.

For those who support that political party above all else, this is a time to reinforce their reasons for supporting that party.  Presumably, no matter what stand a political party takes on some issue, that stand will upset some members of that party.  But anyone upset about one issue or another will be asked to put their "petty issues" aside and vote for that party with which they're affiliated.  "You might get a candidate next time who will be more of your liking, but this time, we have to go forward with the one selected during the primaries."  If someone finds themselves upset about supporting their party's candidate, they can vote for the other party's candidate, of course.  But most won't.  Many will vote a straight party ticket - party loyalists, if you will.  "My party, right or wrong!"

From where I sit, such a position is clearly that of someone who chooses not to think for her/himself.  In the 45+ years I've been eligible to vote in national elections, I can't think of a single time when I was in complete agreement with every element of either party's platform.  [By the way, the platforms presented by the parties often clash with what the politicians actually do after they're elected!]  So is the national convention a time when I look forward to being convinced that the Republican or Democrat candidate is the one for whom I should cast my vote?  Am I swept away with emotional enthusiasm as the inspirational music plays and the red, white, and blue balloons fall about the party's nominee?  Are all my doubts and concerns erased when the party's nominee is introduced as "the next President of the United States!" (which will only be true for one of them, of course) to the wild cheers of the party faithful?  Nope.  Not at all.

The whole process is a charade, a propaganda trick, an expensive stage drama managed by the party's national committee.  I find it insulting that anyone would use such a transparent process to capture my vote for the hack they've nominated.  The national conventions are not at all about using reason and empirical evidence to choose among competing ideas.  They don't allow any discussion of diverse viewpoints about the various issues the parties choose to emphasize, while simultaneously doing their best to ignore other issues that might prove troublesome to that party's chances for election victory.  The goals include castigation of the opposing party's candidate - right up to the point of demonizing him/her.  They also include discrediting the opposing party as a whole - right up to the point of demonizing that party - thereby demonizing the people who vote for that party.  To say this is divisive would be a huge understatement.  Using various forms of falsehoods is entirely acceptable in propaganda, so anything goes, including outright lies, distortions, labeling, and pure fabrications.  This process occurs on both Democrat and Republican sides, although it's pretty evident that the Republican party mastered these tactics much sooner and they continue to employ them more effectively than do the Democrats.

It's well-known that logic and evidence (i.e., rational arguments) are completely ineffective in changing anyone's stance on some issue if their stance is emotional (i.e., irrational) to the point of "My party, right or wrong!"  Rational debate is pointless when dealing with an irrational viewpoint - and the national conventions clearly are aimed at the emotions, not the rational mind.  Unfortunately, my brain struggles with trying to figure out what irrational argument I might find acceptable to change someone's irrational views.  I can't find any acceptable ones.

All's fair in the propaganda wars, so I decline to waste my time even listening to the hogwash spewed out at the national nominating conventions.  I prefer critical thinking and arriving at firm conclusions only after a thorough consideration of all the evidence I can find.  Yes, I prefer one party to the other - I believe you can guess which - but I detest both parties and refuse to support anyone who would stoop to such tactics to win an election.


Unknown said...

Good summary, Chuck! I agree with almost everything that you have said, and note that it also applies, in varying degrees, in other countries.

I think that your NCs are a natural and unfortunate result of an archaic American presidential election system. "Archaic" in the sense that it no longer reflects today's world.

a series of state primaries and caucuses spread done over several months and starting almost a year ahead of the election day may have made sense in a world of horse buggies, trains and teletypes... but in today's world of fast travel and instant communication, it's far too expensive, slow, laborious and tiring... thereby exacerbating many of your points.

I find it weird that people voting in the first primaries choose between a completely slate of candidates than those in subsequent primaries, and they can see their state's votes locked to a specific candidate forever.

This leads to the national NCs, which, as you write, are largely about pomp and circumstance, and notably lacking in content.

I much prefer our Canadian system, in which the federal election unfolds over 5-6 weeks (it will be better as we gradually move toward fixed election dates), and are held independently from the leadership elections

..steve ricketts

Bob Zamora said...

Nice post Chuck. Couldn't agree with you more.

Bob Zamora said...

Nice post Chuck.

Brent Feeney said...

That's all both the major-party conventions have become - a four-day stage-managed infomercial full of spinmeisters and hacks and void of any REAL drama.

I mean, pro wrestling is less scripted than the conventions anymore!

Garrett Fornea said...

I would prefer a no-party system in which independent people were elected instead of electing what is essentially the leader of a party. I have reason to believe that some of the founding fathers did not advise for there to be a partisan system. 
Forming political parties was one of the first, as well as one of the worst, mistakes our country ever made - in my opinion. We are stuck today with two political parties that are diametrically opposed to almost all of each others' views. Ironically, they both believe the other is taking away their freedom. Both seem to want to control your life in some form or fashion. The aspects they wish to control are the only real difference.
On a lighter note, I have a joke that we have to choose between fascists and commies. (This is not meant as an attack on all the good people voting or subscribing to either party.)
I'm terrible at writing conclusions so I'm just going to plagiarize Forrest Gump and just say, that is all I have to say about that.