Res Publica - Journal of Undergraduate Research


Technological advances in communication have always been optimistically welcomed as a means of empowering the average person's ability to hear new ideas and to have their own ideas heard. Eventually, as a new medium becomes widely accepted, control of that medium in terms of information dissemination often becomes narrowed down to a few key players or institutions. In America, authors still rely on publishers for mass distribution; musicians struggle for air-time on radio stations that are owned by a handful of corporations, and television networks charge exorbitant prices for a 30-second commercial. A simple trend has emerged proclaiming that power is the only guarantee for making your voice heard. This trend carried over to the political realm as candidates realized that the key to making their voice heard was how much money was in their campaign war chest. As modern campaign techniques relying heavily on sound-bite information became more and more common, a troubling concern arose from democratic theorists. These theorists began to worry that the American electorate would begin voting solely on images instead of substantive issue positions. Not all of the blame could be placed on voters, though. As V.O. Key explained, "voters are not fools... [T]he electorate behaves about as rationally and responsibly as we should expect, given the clarity of the alternatives presented to it and the character of the information available to it" (Buhr, 2000:204). Laying blame completely aside, a political epidemic was festering as a result of modern campaigns. The candidate who most effectively utilized psychological heuristic devices in campaigning appeared poised to supercede the candidate who had the better ideas, and this was becoming the driving factor in American elections. While this might not have been a problem to campaign consultants who thrived on the new style of electioneering, those who hoped for an ideal democracy cringed at the thought of such campaigns.