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Will undecideds be won over by clashes in TV Land?

  • Published at 11:27 am September 28th, 2016
  • Last updated at 12:55 pm September 28th, 2016
Will undecideds be won over by clashes in TV Land?
The answer is probably not. Not least because millennials who – at a third of the eligible voting population and make up a plurality of voters – don’t watch much television. The day after the first US presidential debate, millennials and undecided voters in the United States are nursing a post-debate hangover. In Colorado, a swing state whose Republican majority has been slowly decimated over the last three decades by immigration from staunchly Democratic areas of California and elsewhere, there is a large body of undecided and uncommitted young people. For the segment of American voters who will have not committed to either candidate, last night’s cut and parry, frequent incoherence and increasingly pointed jabs are the very reason that they seek a third option, or seek to remove themselves from the political process. With a third of the US electorate belonging to the millennial generation, those born between 1979 and 1997, the disappointment of this important demographic segment is a very serious issue. But turn on any of the major television networks and you wouldn’t know that the king makers in this election are so deeply put off by the spectacle of two elder statesmen behaving like schoolroom rivals for a teacher’s attention. Indeed, CNN, who hosted the first debate at Hofstra University, practically billed the debate as a cage fight. The network are now busy declaring victors and parsing the language of the presidential hopefuls in a frenzy to interpret the event for the public. But all of that spin is unlikely to make a dent in the decision of millennials and undecideds, except by pushing them to stay home on November 8 or voting for third party candidates and thereby diverting votes away from either Clinton or Trump. But the unimaginative way in which the media is responding reveals the most telling thing about the ailing political situation in the US: it is the media that is least in touch with the pulse of the great American public. The unspoken but well known partisanship of the major outlets, the habit of rustling up realtime reactions from political surrogates and the endless punditry designed to set the next day’s news cycle are tricks from an antiquated playbook. Fact checking is an important service. And for those who are criticising Lester Holt for his unwillingness to be more heavy handed in his moderation of the debate, it must be said that his approach was both well balanced and well researched; he cannot be held responsible for the behaviour of either candidate. Indeed, coverage of the kind Holt tried to offer by asking candidates equally about the skeletons in their closet would probably be of greater service than current partisan practice.
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