The Amercian Voter

November 3, 2008

Filmmaker Errol Morris is interested in elections and the American voter. My friend Karen is also interested in these things and she called my attention to People In the Middle on the New York Times Opinion Page/blog. I recommend that you check this piece out.

Morris writes: "There is a terrific Web site called The Living Room Candidate,
curated by David Schwartz of The Museum of the Moving Image. I would
urge anyone interested in political television commercials to visit it.
On the site, Schwartz advises us that there “are two types of ‘real
people’ spots: one shows the candidate directly interacting with one or
more people, in a situation that looks as candid and unrehearsed as
possible; and the other uses man-in-the-street testimonials in
documentary-style scenes of supposedly genuine off-the-cuff reactions.”
Recent campaigns have expanded the genre."

As Americans prepare to vote tomorrow I think it is a good idea to take a moment to look at the various ways political commercials seek to shape public opinion.

I think political advertisements tell us a lot about the current culture and the group of people a campaign wants to appeal to or appease. The advertisements are like slivers of history, telling us how television became important in our culture, how presentation styles change, how fashion changes, how voting booths and ballots change.

I find it interesting that in 1956 a former general ran on a platform of peace, and talked about not fighting World War III.

And yet when we look at Eisenhower's competition the plea seems eerily current.

Times change, issues mutate, players revolve; how we use our vocabulary of "change" is amazing. If you start watching these campaign commercials just beware that you'll be at it for some time. 

But it's a good thing to be watching and thinking about, the day before you cast your vote. Remember to vote tomorrow, Tuesday, November 4.

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