Monday, November 1, 2010

TV and the Power of Political Parties

In 1964, Marshall McLuhan, the renowned Media Ecologist, predicted in his book, Understanding Media that TV would do away with the power of political parties. Politicians no longer need the endorsement of political committee people or party captains to get into office. They can go directly to voters in their living rooms on their TV's. He goes on to say in his chapter on "Television, the Timid Giant," that "with TV came the end of bloc voting in politics." People don't even need a political party at all. Consider the case of Tom Tacredo now running for Colorado's governor.

I heard Mike Rosen on the radio talking with Tom Tancredo earlier about the suggestion that he re-register with the Republican Party if he wins for governor. Tom registered with the American Constitution Party to get on the ballot since the Republican slot was already taken by Dan Maes whose popularity slips daily in the polls. McLuhan explains the phenomenon this way that since TV: "Instead of the voting bloc, we have the icon, the inclusive image. Instead of a political viewpoint or platform, the inclusive political posture" we have" the icon , the inclusive image."

"Gone are the stag line, the party line, the receiving line, and the pencil line from the backs of nylons," McLuhan adds.

And with Facebook, email, and all the rest, McLuhan's insightful prediction, in my view, exacerbates the final phase in the decline of the power of political parties. Just like after Gutenberg's printing individual copies of the scriptures, why did we need a church or clergy telling us what various parts of holy writ meant? We had our own copy of the bible in our own room. We did not need to go to the chapel and check with the hand-written copy chained to the lectern to read something and get clarification. We did not need to check to see what father thought. Religious loyalty was gone, and thus came the Reformation.

With TV, McLuhan said "So great is the change," with TV, "in American lives, resulting from the loss of loyalty to the consumer package in entertainment and commerce..." And I believe if McLuhan heard on radio Mike Rosen's suggestion that Tom drop his American Constitution Party registration and return to his former Republican registration, he might say, "I told you so.". In answer to Rosen's suggestion Tancredo said something like "Awe, shucks, Mike, I am still the same old Tom I've always been, regardless of which party to which I swear allegiance." One could almost hear Tom's cowboy boot scrape the floor of the radio studio.

Can anyone tell me what any of the main points in the American Constitution Party's platform for Colorado? It doesn't really mean much these days with TV and the new media politics. Party loyalty is dead. Comes now the new political reformation. But let's please not be too quick to say, "Long live TV."

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