OPINION BY CLARE VANCHAUTE
‘Tis the season to be bombarded with presidential nominee hopefuls.
The primaries do not get nearly the same amount of hype as the general elections, but the primaries are called the primaries for a reason: this is the time that candidates get to grease the wheels of the public mind before the Big Leagues.
For those of us who are monitoring the primaries closely, we have already begun to fine-tune our personal picks. It’s like fantasy football for political nerds like me.
But with that said, I truly only know the candidates based on their performances on large debate stages, CNN coverage of some rally or event taking place in other states, articles written about their campaign trails and social media.
In an age saturated by social media, the assumption would be that social media would be the best tool for candidates running for office could use. With social media, you can reach a great deal more people than you can on the ground, particularly those who aren’t inclined to go to any events or follow the coverage of the primaries closely.
However, I think that events held on college campuses and rallies are the most effective way to make an impact on potential voters.
For instance, let’s examine our recent visit by presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.
Unfortunately, I was not even aware that he was on campus at the time. Surprising, but also disappointing. I bet that the students, faculty, staff and community members who got to be face-to-face with him walked away with a clearer picture and understanding of who Santorum is as a person and a candidate.
Why? Because they actually saw him.
Social media is great and can breach barriers, but it lacks a personal feel to it. My profile picture is a picture of what I look like; my statuses are reflective of what I am thinking about or doing currently; my tweets are revealing of interests I have and my sense of humor.
Sure, the picture is of me, and my status and tweets were created or retweeted by me but would you feel like you really knew me? Wouldn’t you have questions or want to actually see if my humor and beliefs I tote around on social media are actually the way I am?
Social media is a lens we see people through. Every individual’s account is managed by themselves, so we only see what that specific person wants us to see. They can manage their own image.
Politicians are constantly managing their image, but even more importantly, they have teams of people managing it, too. There are people whose job it is to tweet out a candidate’s tweets, comb their toupee and pick out their outfits, write their speeches and coach them on how to handle unexpected questions or situations.
The only time you can slice through all the masks and layers is when you see a candidate in the flesh.
Presidential visits to campus are incredibly important. I don’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent. You should go see everyone you can!
Let me put it this way: If social media and access to things on our smart phones were enough, no one would go to live concerts to see music. I think the same concept applies to political candidates.
We are lucky in that we have unique opportunity going to a university in Iowa and in the capital city. The Iowa Caucuses are a big deal and they can be a make-or-break for politicians running for president.
I encourage you take advantage of this and don’t let any opportunity pass you by. There will be visits on our campus and in the greater Des Moines community.
So go to as many as you can become as informed as you can, and use your vote to influence the future of this country. Don’t let the social media, controlled by political actors, be the only way you get to know them and their agendas. Meet them, talk to them and see if they measure up.