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The Perils of Circus Politics

By       Message Robert B. Reich     Permalink
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Reprinted from Robert Reich Blog

From flickr.com/photos/47422005@N04/20549573791/: GOP Top Three Clowns
GOP Top Three Clowns
(Image by DonkeyHotey)
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The next president of the United States will confront a virulent jihadist threat, mounting effects of climate change, and an economy becoming ever more unequal.

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We're going to need an especially wise and able leader.

Yet our process for choosing that person is a circus, and several leading candidates are clowns.

How have we come to this?

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First, anyone with enough ego and money can now run for president.

This wasn't always the case. Political parties used to sift through possible candidates and winnow the field.

Now the parties play almost no role. Anyone with some very wealthy friends can set up a Super PAC. According to a recent New York Times investigation, half the money to finance the 2016 election so far has come from just 158 families.

Or if you're a billionaire, you can finance your own campaign.

And if you're sufficiently outlandish, outrageous, and outspoken, a lot of your publicity will be free. Since he announced his candidacy last June, Trump hasn't spent any money at all on television advertising.

Second, candidates can now get away with saying just about anything about their qualifications or personal history, even if it's a boldface lie.

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This wasn't always the case, either. The media used to scrutinize what candidates told the public about themselves.

A media expose could bring a candidacy to a sudden halt (as it did in 1988 for Gary Hart, who had urged reporters to follow him if they didn't believe his claims of monogamy).

But when today's media expose a candidates lies, there seems to be no consequence. Carson's poll numbers didn't budge after revelations he had made up his admission to West Point.

The media also used to evaluate candidates' policy proposals, and those evaluations influenced voters.

Now the media's judgments are largely shrugged off. Trump says he'd "bomb the sh*t" out of ISIS, round up all undocumented immigrants in the United States and send them home, and erect a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexican border.

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http://robertreich.org/

Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.


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