Jamaica Plain residents would be smart to pay little or no attention to the U.S. presidential race from now until next September, two months before the election. It will be hard, given the media pressure, but worthwhile.
Who gets elected president is obviously important. But it doesn’t make sense for us to give much notice to the hours, pages, programs and digits regional and national media of all kinds are spitting out now—a year before the final election and months before the Massachusetts presidential primary in March.
We already pretty much know the Democratic nominee will be incumbent Barack Obama. And the contenders for the Republican nomination are too underqualified, simplistic and/or eccentric to run for president of a student body, let alone president of a country. Also, JP voters tend to vote in Democratic primaries much more than Republican, so there’s nothing for us to see there.
Not that major media think about the presidential election in any real political or governmental way. Covering the candidates at weekly debates, giving speeches at conferences, etc., is just another reality TV competition show to major media. Instead of “Dancing with the (would-be, third-rate and has-been) Stars,” we get “Jousting with the Republican Hopefuls,” complete with critiques from professional pundits after each performance.
Meanwhile, covering people running for the Senate and House of Representatives around the country in a regular way seems to be way too difficult and expensive for major media to attempt. It’s been that way for a while: A person landing here from Mars the year before a presidential election would assume the U.S. has an “elected monarch” form of government.
A good reality check is to watch a federal policy try to wend its way through Washington. So many more people than the president, most of whom we know nothing about, are crucial to this nation’s fate.
U.S. senators are among those people, and in Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown is trying to hold onto the seat he won in 2010 when complacent Democrats assumed it was theirs. Elizabeth Warren and several others have announced for the Democratic nomination. Brown has voted against raising taxes on people who make more than $1 million per year and against various recent jobs bills, among many other votes. Jamaica Plainers might better direct their attention to that race, whose primaries will be next September.
A good way to cleanse our palettes of distaste for current presidential race coverage would be to get to know more local elected officials. After all, who will have had more impact on JP by this time next year—Rick Perry or Felix Arroyo?
Local officials and their aides have local office hours, telephone numbers, email addresses and websites. They include U.S. Congress members Mike Capuano and Steve Lynch; state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz; state Reps. Liz Malia and Jeff Sánchez; City Councilor Matt O’Malley; Jullianne Doherty from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services; and many others.
Now, getting to know them and where they stand on issues would be really useful.