Friday, October 17, 2014

The Way You Look Tonight

As I was flipping through the channels on my TV the other night, my family stopped to watch a press conference with President Obama about the ebola crisis in the United States.  As we watched him speak on the subject, I noticed just how tired he looked.  I remember canvasing for Obama back in 2008, and the now worn and tired president is not the same young and spirited man he was when he first ran for office. 

 I thought back to many history classes that I have taken in which we discussed the question whether or not Franklin Delano Roosevelt would be elected for office if he ran today.  If we think of solely his politics, it is easy to think that he would still be voted into office by Americans today.  However, we must also consider his physical condition.  A victim of polio as a child, FDR was weak in his lower body and used crutches and a wheelchair.  When he gave speeches, he leaned against the podium for support.  If television had prevalent in American homes at this time, would people have still voted for him, seeing that he was physically weak?


 Personally, I do not think that America would have elected FDR into office.  This was an era before television, an era before the majority of Americans could judge a public official based on their physical characteristics.  The first television was introduced to the American public at the 1939 World's Fair at which FDR gave a speech to welcome all of those in attendance.  It wasn’t until the early 1950s, however, that more than fifty percent of Americans owned TVs.

  Television has influenced politics and increased the importance of the public image.  Before television, people could listen to politicians on the radio or read about them in the news, but there was no way in which the masses could observe the actions and the physical appearance of a person and make judgements about him.  With the invention of the television came the importance of having a presentable image.  Politicians are constantly under public scrutiny, for there are always fans, interviewers, or paparazzi waiting to film or take a picture of a public personality.   The public image has become so important in today’s society.  The body language and physical appearance of a politician suddenly became much more important to the public once the masses were able to watch a public figure live on TV.


The importance of the public image adds a whole new element to politics.  Because of the influence of television, politics are no longer mainly based on what the politicians believe or what they promise their constituents, but instead on the way a politician looks.  America aims to vote for someone who looks strong, friendly, trustworthy, and like they will be able to protect America in a time of crisis. 

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