Getting rid of the presidential labeling

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

For one brief moment just more than a week ago, the circus that has surrounded the 2008 presidential race stopped. In a news cycle dominated by process stories, sound bites and Monday morning quarterbacking, the voters – that’s you and us – decided that they had enough of being told how they were going to vote.

CNN posted a story on its Web site Jan. 21 titled “Gender or race: Black women voters face tough choices in S.C.” The story centered around the opinion of hair salon owner Angela Jackson who at the moment, was the only one in her hair salon that said she was supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton for president.

In its analysis of the influence black women hold in this election, the story posed this question: “For these women, a unique, and most expected dilemma, presents itself: Should they vote their race or should they vote their gender?”

What?

Within minutes, CNN had a flood of e-mails from people rightly offended to be informed that they would be voting based on such superficiality.

In that brief period of time, more information about what voters really care about this election emerged than in months of cold-calling and exit polling.

On the Republican side, we’re used to hearing about who’s too old to win the nomination. Or too Mormon. Or too Christian. Or who’s been married too many times. Is this really how we’re picking the next leader of the free world?

As much as the media are to blame for running far more process stories than information about where the candidates stand on the issues, the campaigns feed into it because it’s easier than actually figuring out how to govern.

But the longer this back and forth goes on, it becomes increasingly apparent that not only are the media treating the voters like children, the candidates themselves act more like them every day.

After eight years, everyone who is running right now represents some degree of hope, or of change or of potential. But the longer all the candidates and the media continue to feed into this conveniently formulated narrative of race versus gender or electable or not, the more likely that voters will be turned off.

We’re tired of being told that our votes matter but having our true beliefs ignored in favor of polling data.

After all, in the most open presidential election we will see for some time, wouldn’t it be best for the candidates to talk about things that matter? If they don’t, it’s worth asking whether anyone will ever feel better about this country no matter who survives to see Nov. 4.