Former congressman discuss polarization and social media

David Trott

By Caroline Paterno

Former Congressman David Trott (R-MI) feels that social media and media are responsible for today’s political climate.

At a Congress to Campus event at St. Bonaventure University, Trott and former Congressman Peter Kostmayer (D-PA) provided insight on today’s current political climate.

While both acknowledged the role of social media and the media, Kostmayer noted that the divide we see comes from our voters, since elected officials have to respond to them. It seems like we forget that the media is focused on financial gains, so they will provide stories that generate revenue, and this can be seen when covering elections.

Peter Kostmayer

When covering elections, the media is more focused on horse race issues rather than issues of substance because that’s what sells. The media impacts the views of the voters, and these views impact how they vote.

For example, when covering the Buffalo mayor’s race, we saw more articles related to Democratic candidate India Walton’s past than actual policy issues that she stands for. Instead of letting voters decide for themselves, the media gave people reasons why not to vote for Walton.

As Trott reminds us, the media sells stories that generate clicks, and those are the stories that divide instead of us help understand the issues. When we are focused on horse race issues and our political opponents as being incorrect, we don’t learn the perspectives of the other side, we don’t take time to listen to them.

When we the voters focus on the issues that divide, we elect people who will continue to polarize our country instead of coming together.

Caroline Paterno is a student in Campaigns, Candidates and Current Elections, an honors course at St. Bonaventure University.

Categories: Jandoli Institute, Politics

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