Reality Show Rot: How Watching People Behave Like Dumbasses Has Damaged Our Political Conversation

Remember when television was good? When the networks tried to provide well-crafted programming to lure viewers to their channel? With just 3 major networks, we had meaningful content as well as B-movie grade bubble gum for the mind. No matter how far out the premise, those shows were made by writers, actors, and producers and we could tell which ones were labors of love, art, and the pursuit of perfection.

Now we have cameras following people around while they behave in ways that the great majority were brought up to understand as inappropriate, obnoxious, and ignorant.

As amusing as it was for 5 minutes, the GOP line up of presidential hopefuls has become wearily ridiculous just like the whole Kardashian Klan and any of those other people who make their living on removed-from-reality television. Making stupid statements and showing pride in your ass, your ignorance, your skill at “keeping it real”, or just thinking you’re the most special gem in the treasure chest of life has served only to dumb down the expectations Americans have for everything.

It was fun to laugh at Donald Trump for a few days. Ben Carson, seeing how a display of blunt buffoonery boosted the ratings, has shown that he is missing a few pieces between his brain and his mouth. Herman Cain is probably shaking his head and declaring “shucky ducky” at the wack-a-doodles on any Republican “debate” stage this year.

My Facebook and Twitter feeds are dotted with stupid shit proclaimed true by Ben Carson shares. At least I don’t have as much Trump grump littering my feeds this week. It’s not amusing to me any more. I’ve taken to tuning out when anyone says, “Can you believe what (fill in the blank with any Republican hopeful’s name) said this week?” Yes, I can believe it. They’ve broken ridiculousness.

Tonight the Democrats will have their second presidential nominee wannabe showdown. There will be three people taking part. A respected newsperson will be interviewing each of them. Few will watch because these three people don’t tend to make statements pulled out of the well of delusion and fantasy. Sanders, Clinton, and O’Malley use their imaginative powers to try to come up with solutions to make life better for everyone involved with the success of the United States.

Fact-checking will be nitpicky down to the intonation used by the speaker. Politifact will work hard this weekend. The “Pants-on-Fire” meter will get a break.

Because there will be no ignorance on parade, the only people watching will be those who are either fans of intelligent political discourse or rabid, angry conservatives looking to finally catching Hillary admitting to planning the raid on Bengazi or to hear Bernie Sanders say he wants the Soviet Union to annex the US. (Yes, I know there is no longer a Soviet Union, but some have never separated it from Russia.)

Even though all I can gather about Martin O’Malley from his first appearance is that he is considered a traditionally handsome man and he speaks rationally, I’ll mention him because his appearance is not likely to put a dent in the ratings with those attributes. Perhaps without the noise of Chafee and Webb, we’ll hear more of what he’s about. How quickly the Dems weeded out those who didn’t bring a substantial, thought out platform to the stage.

The mad dash for the White House in 2016 began way too early. President Obama is still doing amazing work, but the hubbub of OMG drowns it out unless he throws a truth bomb out and it explodes on the ears of an internet meme maker. The reactions vary from “Oh, did he say THAT?!” to “Well, it’s about time.” (The remarks you are exposed to may vary depending on your personal circle of friends and family.)

Even though we may already be burnt out on Presidential Primary News, when we do tune in to it, we need to discard the trash and stop giving them attention. We need to scrutinize those that sound like rational human beings and decide if their words match their records. (Spoiler alert: John Kasich is not the man he pretends to be when on tv. Just ask Ohioans. The fact that he appears to be a decent person, and not a less stupid version of Scott Walker shows what an outrageous bunch the GOP is entertaining for their ticket.)

It’s boring without them, but our process for choosing the next leader of our country should not sound like an E! television production of Honey Boo Boo meets Duck Dynasty. Hide the attention whores from your social media feeds. Focus on what’s at stake.

Remember when the tv characters were written for your entertainment and inspiration, and they weren’t engaged in behaviors that would make your grandma suck her teeth before she lit into you about being a decent human being. Admit you felt smarter watching “Knight Rider” than you do following the GOP’s production of “So You Really Wanna Be President?”

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