The media loves elections. Though 2013 is neither a general nor midterm election year, news outlets seem to enjoy speculating on future elections. This year specifically has focused on the gubernatorial elections, such as those in New Jersey and Virginia. The media has sensationalized them as if their speculations are accurate predictions for the presidential election in 2016. But this fixation on an unending election cycle only increases voter fatigue and widens partisan divisions about who will “win” the upcoming election next time around. Though state elections are certainly newsworthy, national media should stop using them as excuses to speculate on the next round of candidates in the 2016 elections.
News outlets have particularly focused on Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, as a viable nominee for the presidency in 2016. Though he was re-elected only last night political analysts are already looking ahead at his future in the GOP. Late polling results makes his re-election seem inevitable, and should he win the governor’s mansion again, Christie will have achieved a rare feat as a Republican governor in a largely Democratic state. Notably, Christie also played a pivotal role in the 2012 elections. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the governor very publicly worked with President Barack Obama in order to speed recovery efforts at both state and federal levels.
Though Christie is certainly a national figure, the media should stop painting him as a potential party nominee. As a recent NBC News article asked, “Centrist or a conservative? Christie faces fork in the road for 2016.” The fact remains that the 2016 elections are three years away. Even by American standards of lengthy campaigns, it is simply too early to begin speculation. Though the 2014 midterm elections are somewhat closer, Americans should not have to be subjected to the media’s never-ending fascination with elections.
Though political junkies will surely be interested in almost any election, such media preoccupation with every election has the effect of alienating more casual voters who might only vote in major elections. In New Jersey, for example, an earlier October election to fill a vacant Senate seat garnered a paltry nine percent of voters. Even before his win in that election, Cory Booker was hailed as a “Democrat darling” and “rising star” of the Democratic party, according to Fox News. Are these terms simply the first steps in next calling him a potential nominee in 2016? Past election history seems to answer that question affirmatively. The media is undoubtedly responsible for over-hyping almost every election and thus reducing the value of all elections collectively.
Media speculation in the Virginia gubernatorial race further shows problems with media hype. The political battle in that state has become so sensationalized by the media and outside interests that there has been little focus on real issues of importance to Virginia voters. The candidates in the race, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli, have instead both focused on personal attacks. According to CNN, “The McAuliffe-Cuccinelli race has been defined by small-bore issues and character attacks rather than sweeping national concerns.” The Virginia race has included appeals from Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton on behalf of McAuliffe, while Cuccinelli has also been endorsed by national Republican figures. These outside influences, however, have little impact on issues specific to Virginia. Instead, the Virginia race has turned into what a lot of other state elections turn into: testing grounds for strategies to try in bigger national and general elections.
This strategy, employed by both Democrats and Republicans, often goes against the best interests of voters in a state. This year in Virginia, voters and non-voters were witness to a highly charged and negative campaign as both parties sought to win the state and prove that momentum was on their side for 2016. According to the local news, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “In recent interviews in Chesapeake [Virgina], voters agreed that the race for governor has become too negative, with too little focus on the issues that matter to Virginians and too much emphasis on why ‘the other guy’ should not get elected.”
Undoubtedly, political parties bear some of the blame for this 2016 election madness as they constantly try to calculate their strategies for the next big election cycle. The media, however, is at fault for its tiresome and ultimately meaningless speculation of what will happen in the 2016 campaign.
Ida Abhari is a freshman majoring in philosophy, politics and law.
Follow us on Twitter @dailytrojan