I have a theory. That theory is that reality television has benefited the democratic process. I’m sure that seems like a stretch to you, but I have been curiously watching the really unprecedented hoopla surrounding the primaries this (and last) year and it strikes me that the press is treating the races very much like a Survivor-style elimination contest, complete with Tuesday Tribal Councils, post-elimination speeches, and Simon Cowell-like evaluations of candidates weekly performances by the usual slate of pundits. Add to this that there seems to have been a surge of interest by younger voters (those voters most involved in American Idol and the like over the past few years) and I think there is something to my assertion. Even the on-line tracking of the candidates mimics the contestant elimination tabulation of reality shows:
The reality tv elimination contest provides a model of evaluation and behavior that makes the political process more natural and straightforward to many voters. And, in fact, we have had a lot of practice following contestants over longer periods of time, developing allegiances to them, participating in decisions about who will survive, and so forth. Forget Motor Voter, Rock the Vote, and other purposeful attempts to increase participation. Reality TV may be the biggest political development since the advent of television.
Now if we can only get all of them to sing each week…although based on the success of the “Dean Scream,” perhaps that isn’t the best idea.