Search for the perfect sound bite

This has been a bad year for politicians for one simple reason: I have been exposed to them far too much.

This has been a bad year for politicians for one simple reason: I have been exposed to them far too much.

We had a bloodbath for a provincial election that boiled down to simplistic sound bites from two highly unelectable candidates who won an election for the Tories in the media and somehow forgot to ask for any real direction toward sound economic policy from our elected leader.

Premier Alison Redford had all of the answers to all of the problems in pre-election fighting trim but now defers to “rule by committee,” “further study” and “I am not completely familiar with that topic” to answer the scant handful of questions that she will accept in a press scrum.

The antics of the newly-elected PC government should be eerily familiar because it is simply business as usual for the party that refused to die in this province. Their track record for success is largely based upon traditional for-personal-gain political alliances based upon four decades of party domination in a province where political change moves at the speed of continental drift.

The other irritant is the U.S. election, which is in the back nine of a rough 2012 political war and it has made me even wearier of a system that is based upon the art of the sound bite political game.

There is a lot of stupidity to pass around in any election, but the U.S. presidential race runs at the front of the line because it places its candidates under an even more powerful microscope.

President Barack Obama was the first president elected with a little help from his social media friends, a powerful new political weapon that even helped effect change in the Middle East.

The 2012 campaign is not as easy for Obama because his opponents have also used the social networks to define their message, plus Obama now has a track record that defines his presidency. He can no longer rely upon the “hope and change” mantra that defined his 2008 campaign because it no longer applies to his situation.

So now the key to the White House is to look for a sound bite that will define an opponent and the one that gained the most traction was a “binders full of women” comment by Mitt Romney that was used against him as a cynical weapon that illustrated his limited view of women’s role in the 21st century.

The comment was a clumsy phrase that was taken out of context because Romney’s larger point was that he insisted that larger numbers of women be employed in his workplace and that point was forever lost when they shrank his comments down to a sound bite.

The phrase was ripped from the larger point and used against him in an election that will be decided by a female vote that is not as sold on Obama as they were in 2008.

Obama even attempted to form his own sound bite moment during the last debate when he mocked Romney’s understanding of defence structure with his “fewer horses and bayonets” comment. The important part of the equation was to get the sound bite into the fast flowing streams of the social media giants like Twitter and Facebook.

There is so little that is real and genuine about a political campaign battle because most of them get wrapped up in purpose-driven distractions like sound bites that get in the way of any real analysis of actual policy and direction.

Somehow that fact makes the seamy world of politics seem even seamier to me and an overdose of elections in 2012 has made this a very fertile year to be a cynic.

Jim Sutherland is a local freelance columnist.

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