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Agenda Setting and the Presidential Election, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

The recent Presidential election in the United States was one of the most unique campaigns in American history, as for the first time the electorate was uncertain and undecided until the very end. The September 11 carnage, after effects of the Iraq war, economic recession and the slight insecurity that the country was facing for the first time after dominating the world scenario for so long were the dominant features which forced the public to rethink its priorities. According to an analysis conducted by the eminent media agency, Reuters, there existed no media bias in the presidential campaign and what apparently looked as more focus on Obama, occurred entirely due to different factors which emerged during the campaign. The need for a change, Obama’s personal charisma and the financial crisis surfacing in late September’2008 were the major factors behind what seemed as an apparent focus on the Democrats (Gorman, 2008). Although McCain partisans occasionally expressed their anger through their perception of what they regarded as a preferential treatment meted out to Obama by the mainstream news organizations, media scholars disagree with this notion as they believe that it was actually the ‘dynamics of the campaign and the media’s tendency to focus on what they label as the horse race’ which specifically benefitted Obama (Gorman, 2008). It was a sequence of events which raised Obama’s poll numbers and attracted media attention. McCain’s campaign did receive a boost towards the culmination stages when in late August’2008 the Sarah Palin factor spurred his popularity. Media moguls believe that the turning point in the campaign was the way the financial crises was handled and projected by the two candidates.2, 400 campaign stories from 48 news outlets when examined statistically revealed that negative McCain campaign stories far outnumbered the positive ones (57:14) which was not the case with Obama’s campaign stories which had a more positive outlook (Gorman, 2008).

While the Republicans tried to build upon the success achieved in the Iraq war as a retaliatory effort after the 9/11 fiasco and their intended plans for continuation of war on terror, the Democrats drilled the electorate with the factual situation confronting the nation and the urgent need for drastic changes in order to save the country from falling into an economic abyss.

What emerges as a stark fact is the reality of the current world scenario in which recession has hit American economy very badly coupled with the relative prosperity of previous minnow nations which have started emerging as world leaders in innovation and technology providing competition for America. The post cold war era had put the American thought process into a cocoon of relative security which has been shattered by the shifting trends in world economy. No longer are American products and achievements being looked at by the rest of the world with awe amidst increasing criticism and voice on American blunders such as the Iraq war which proved too expensive to handle in the long run.  The American vote bank was therefore looking for any change, maybe superficial, which might assist in allaying their steadily growing fears. Resentment among the majority Americans against the hitherto domineering mode of the decision making processes and policy decisions under President George Bush stimulated the people to seek a change of reigns. Although Obama’s candidature was more symbolic than realistic, it provided the people hope for solutions to their never ending problems brought forth by unrestricted spending through credit which put the majority population under debt. Harlow, 2009 therefore is correct in her interpretation that what the general public felt as ‘the starting of a movement’ under the President Obama’s leadership is nothing but a pipe dream which is not based on facts. She feels that this comprehension is mere symbolic as the President alone can do nothing more than follow the standard platform of the party on the basis of which the Democrats are pushing forward their campaign (Harlow, 2009). It just imparts a false sense of belief that by voting a black person to the highest echelon in America, the country is fulfilling its promise for racial equality, which does not exist at all if true facts and statistics of American public life are taken into consideration.

Another major factor which influenced Obama’s successful campaign was the concern shown for the environment which had suffered greatly under the wrong policies or lack of their application under President Bush’s administration (Conca, 2009). The author believes that the Bush administration disregarded the enforcement of laws on environmental degradation in order to suit the ideologies of the all powerful white majority which constitutes the major chunk of the Republicans. This resulted in negligence of minority living areas where industrial effluents and other wastes were dumped with impunity. This might have pleased the all powerful white majority population of America but was very real in the thereat it posed to the environment in America as well as its contribution to global warming. Obama automatically received this major area as an agenda and focus for his election campaign. The promised crash programs for the greening of America and strict enforcement of environmental laws convinced the electorate of the imminent good that was going to happen to the country under the new leadership. Focus on the environmental agenda ensured the opportunities for employment which might present themselves after the due processes are brought into force. This lent an aura of hope and expectation among the desperate and unemployed young American citizens.

The personal charisma of Barack Obama and his promise to curb the financial crisis and increase employment opportunities were enough to shift the focus in his favor, particularly in the swing states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida and others where he received tremendous adulation and support which enabled to edge past McCain. This particular election campaign generated huge public interest and even states like Iowa which were traditionally dominant in their support for Republicans were enraptured by the enigmatic personality of Obama (Calhoun, 2008).

It was the sequence of events and the deft handling and presentation of the major issues in the correct manner that attracted media attention onto Barack Obama and not the other way round. Although Obama’s charismatic personality did put him into the spotlight, media as such was entirely neutral in its campaign coverage and highlighted the campaign stories only according to merit and the news value of the events which took place.

References

Calhoun, B 2008. Swing States Eye Trickle-Down Impact of Preside, online article accessed March 12, 2010 at: http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/Content.aspx?audioID=29261

Conca, K 2009. An Environmental Agenda for Obama, Dissent, Pages 73-79

Election 2008, Swing States, online data accessed March 12, 2010 at: http://www.azcentral.com/flash/news/swing_states/index.html

Gorman, S 2008. Media Bias largely unseen in US Presidential Race, online article accessed March 12, 2010 at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE4A57FO20081106

Harlow, R 2009. Barack Obama and the (In) Significance of His Presidential Campaign, J Afr Am St, Volume 13, Pages 164–175

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