In a year, it will be my first time voting and I have a whole new group of presidential candidates to look through and learn about. In the past century, there has been increased emphasis on “getting to know” presidential candidates. As was seen with the first televised presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960, candidate personality plays a large role in how citizens decide who to vote for to become president of the United States. But, of course, with time and subject restraints, there are limitations to how we can learn about a candidate through debate. While the 1960s established televised debates as the primary opportunity to learn more about candidates’ personalities, modern TV interviews allow more focus on personability and have become the best way for candidates to introduce themselves to the American public.
Shows like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, amongst many others, have become a way to showcase personality. Back in 2007, Barack Obama went on Saturday Night Live, as did Hillary Clinton in 2015. Having candidates on late night shows gives them a sense of approachability and humor. It opens a new kind of connectivity and removes the rigidness of the debate structure.
The downfall of the on-screen persona is that it only focuses on the person’s personality, lacking legislative information. TV interviews can only show the public so much, but many feel that they can base their understanding of a candidate by it. If someone is shown as kind and charming, it seems hard to not trust them. We want to have faith in someone by their actions and personality. But for a president, there is more to know. Legislation and political plans are the key to understanding what a candidate truly wants to do. All these interviews should be taken with a grain of salt. Likability should not be the main focus of a president, and giving the public a deeper sense of what the candidates’ legislative goals are means could bring a more educated group of voters. An interview with a candidate is only one part of getting to understand them.
The key to getting to understand a candidate viewing more than just debates and interviews. We need to have a more multifaceted way to understand candidates and work to know their true intentions. By getting to see them in multiple forms of media, we can become more familiar with their personality, goals, beliefs and legislation plans, getting a fuller picture of a candidate. Our next election is coming, and now, more than ever, is the time to educate. If you want to learn more about presidential candidates, find a comedy talk show or a debate and get started.