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Daily Archives: November 17th, 2016

Interesting facts about elections and television. MA.

On November 14, 1959, TV Guide published a brief essay about politics and television by Senator John F. Kennedy that contained some prophetic words about the influence of money and public relations on presidential campaigns that still seem true today.


Ironically, within a year of the TV Guide article, Kennedy would be president-elect of the United States, in no small part helped by his ability to use television as a campaign tool. And Kennedy’s effectiveness as a “TV candidate” would become a template for future politicians.

But in 1959, Kennedy said that campaign contributions and the presentation of candidates for a mass television audience were two trends that voters needed to watch closely.

Kennedy’s articles appeared as part of a series called “Television As I See It,” and his article was titled “A Force That Has Changed The Political Scene.”

“It is in your power to perceive deception, to shut off gimmickry, to reward honesty, to demand legislation where needed. Without your approval, no TV show is worthwhile and no politician can exist,” concluded Kennedy.

Kennedy spent much of his essay stating how television, in the right hands, could help politicians bring out their best moments.

“Honesty, vigor, compassion, intelligence—the presence or lack of these of other qualities make up what is called the candidate’s ‘image,’” he wrote. Kennedy then states that despite a candidate’s public record on issues, “My own conviction is that these images or impressions are likely to be uncannily correct.” But in the wrong hands, television could be used for “manipulation, exploitation and gimmicks,” Kennedy said. “It can be abused by demigods, by appeals to emotions and prejudice and ignorance,” he said.

Kennedy then railed about the potential takeover of campaigns by public relations experts. “Political shows like quiz shows can be fixed—and sometimes are,” he said. The other problem Kennedy warned about was the item of “financial cost.”

“If all parties and candidates are to have equal access to this essential and decisive campaign medium, without becoming deeply obligated to the big financial contributors … then the time has come when a  solution must be found to this problem of TV costs.” Kennedy was particularly upset that a total of $5.8 million had been spent on TV advertising during the 1956 presidential campaign.

In the following year, as a presidential candidate Kennedy would come under criticism for allegedly employing some of the tactics he warned about in the TV Guide article. Kennedy and Richard Nixon each raised and spent about $10 million in the 1960 campaign, about $2 million more than President Dwight Eisenhower needed in 1956. Kennedy, as the richest person ever elected president, also didn’t lack for resources.

In 1964, the price of a presidential campaign jumped to $16 million for contender Barry Goldwater and the era of big spending in campaigns started.

By 2012, the presidential campaign between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney cost an estimated $2.76 billion, with much of that money going into media buys. The 2016 contest featuring Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton cost about $2.65 billion.

To relate those numbers to the Nixon-Kennedy era, Nixon and Kennedy combined spent about $161 million in 2016 dollars on their campaigns, using the CPI to calculate inflation. It was the 1968 race featuring Nixon, Hubert Humphrey and a slew of primary candidates that set the tone for future campaign spending, with a total of nearly $600 million in current-dollar spending. It would be the most expensive presidential election on record until the 2004 Bush-Kerry race.

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Donald Trump’s  60 minutes interview covered a lot of campaign issues and statements. Some statements were walked back and some were not. In a nutshell (my opinion) the bell once rang cannot be unrang! The statements made on the campaign trail that rallied the Alt- Right and Racists to him caused an uptick  in Racial violence on the streets of America. This all on top of the tension over police shootings. The folks who voted for Trump because “he tells it like it is”, fail to understand that this is not how the world works. In the real world and on the streets a person who tells it like it is will probably end up in a fight! The tension in America was already high in that the White extremists were already in a Lynching mood because of President Obama’s election now they are emboldened and ready to attack anyone who is not with them. These are the same people who stole people from Africa, decimated the native American population and attacked anyone who is not “white American”. These are the folks who uplifted Trump but for their own purposes not the country’s. It will be interesting to see what occurs in these  post-election years. Recently after announcing some staff selections there has been some talk of these selections being Racist or otherwise questionable. People who say some folks are not Racist may be people who have never experienced first hand Racism. When that happens to them perhaps the thinking will change. The real issue here is that many alt right, conservatives , liberals or any of the many labeled factions fail to realize that they have many more commonalities than they realize , with that realization can come some better election outcomes in the future. Remember the change that was mocked in Obama’s first election?, that change was openly mocked and challenged by the “establishment” politics  and Trump (which Trump has vowed to disrupt if elected). This election was based on change but what is the nature of the change?, will it be business as usual under the guise of making it better? Pay careful attention to what comes out of Washington in the next few years as the New Government has the same Congress that has performed so poorly for 20 plus years.  The alt-right and extremists who want to take America back have now been emboldened but have not improved their knowledge of the effects these changes will have on them as well as the “other” Americans that they so detest.

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