Donald Trump is sucking up every molecule of Oxygen this side of Jupiter in the GOP primary by speaking his mind. Love him or hate him, he is unabashedly saying what he thinks. Ted Cruz is his closest rival in that regard, calling his own party's majority leader out on the Senate floor. And Barack Obama's rising approval ratings are in part because he is saying what he thinks, to reporters and to the public. It seems that we love politicians who speak from the heart, unabated by the spin masters and thought police who massage every statement into something just innocuous and fungible enough that it actually means nothing.
Yet, Trump and Cruz are effectively discarded as fringe voices that can't get the GOP nomination. And Obama is only now expressing his true thoughts as his Presidency is in its waning days. Why is it that we love people who speak their minds, but don't elect them? Howard Dean was laughed out of the room for getting emotional after losing a primary. Rick Perry was called stupid by the aforementioned Trump because he forgot his lines on stage in the 2012 primary season.
No one is less interested in defending Rick Perry's intelligence than I am, but the disconnect between who we vote for and what we say we actually want is amazing. It's a bit like a car accident. We all slow down to gawk while complaining about the gawkers slowing down traffic.
There is a part of human nature - and we do this to ourselves - that regards the "reserved, cautious and considered" voice as the more intelligent one. The person who speaks their mind off the cuff is often considered emotional, irrational and/or immature. This happens in business, in sports, in politics and in life. We slowly massage those who speak their minds into smooth obelisks without a rough edge...aka without a genuine voice or personality.
That part of our human nature is callously exploited by the bigger enemy of honest political discourse...our media. Independent journalism reporting the facts and providing relatively impartial analysis has been replaced by shock jocks on either side, looking for any "misstep" to pounce upon and tear apart like a hungry cougar on the Serengeti. The media in America is no longer a shining example of free speech enabling a democracy, but rather a cautionary tale of speech-for-profit's ability to destroy our faith in ourselves...and each other.
The election of President Obama cemented a change in American demographics that the media seized upon to transform themselves from purveyors of information to preachers of partisan thought. Admittedly new technologies makes the availability of information so instantaneous, media had no choice but to evolve. But they did have a choice about devolving from informing to indoctrinating.
Increasingly the most watched media is a bunch of partisan hacks, shouting divisive messages to the flock, reaffirming their narrowest and basest biases and fears. The result is that anyone who says anything of substance or value, who shows an iota of real emotion will be eaten alive in an endless cable news cycle reinforced by the cowardly hatred that self-amplifies in chat rooms and on social media.
Just last week after an hour-long Presidential news conference about an historic nuclear non-proliferation deal, the right wing media jumped all over the President's blunt response to an out-of-line reporter rather than any actual substance of the press conference or the deal with Iran. In any conversation about facts, science or logic, it is easiest to make example of the right wing media, because they have so openly celebrated their own abdication of any factual reason.
However, the right is not alone. Just as the right reflexively attacks anything Obama, or climate change, or women's rights; the left-leaning media often jumps on anything pro-business. The left has assumed GMO foods are bad, without the facts to back that up. The left attacks global trade treaties like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as if protectionism will bring back American jobs. And, worse still, the left attacks some American businesses, employing American workers in favor of others.
The only way we break this cycle is to actually shock the so-called pundits and experts and break the cycle of voting in the leaders we actually want, rather than the ones the media anoints as electable. That is easier said than done. On the left, people are being 'bullied' into voting Hillary because Bernie Sanders 'can't win." On the right, the GOP establishment is selling the media that Trump is unelectable. In our democracy, only our votes should decide who is 'electable.' Don't let any media take that away from us.