For anyone who didn’t catch the Republican National Convention, here’s a quick recap, courtesy of any mainstream media outlet: “Clint Eastwood talked to an empty chair! And…I guess nothing else.” From CNN, the supposed liberals, and FOX News, who are apparently conservative, the stories are surprisingly similar. From how much has been written about Eastwood’s surprise speech, one could almost be forgiven for thinking he was running for some kind of office himself.
The coverage of an aging actor’s relatively benign speech onstage at the RNC completely baffles me. What on earth is there to report? The man has no bearing (or rather, should have no bearing) on the race going forward. Who cares if he used an empty chair as a prop for his speech? Parts of Mississippi have been underwater for days, yet CNN’s headlines read “Eastwood sets Twitter abuzz.”
This exasperatingly exhaustive coverage of a political non-player just serves as yet another example of the main problem in this election: No matter the side, nobody wants to discuss the real issues. The media, the principal culprits in this case, would rather lampoon a washed-up old actor than tell us much of anything about the RNC itself. Nor has President Barack Obama been getting much attention. Everything has ground to a halt, while the news debates whether or not Mr. Eastwood knew that the chair was, in fact, empty. That is not to say that the candidates are any more willing to discuss topics of value. Romney is quick to say that he has a plan, but does not divulge many details. I understand not wanting to be pinned to specifics as we push toward November, but at some point he has to come out and say what he wants to do.
Obama is hardly better, though. In public addresses and interviews he has taken to foregoing even a mention of having a plan moving forward, choosing instead to launch right into personal attacks on Romney. I cannot say whether these attacks are warranted, but so many attacks lead me to think that the president does not have enough faith in his record so far to be able to run on it. I would say that he should.
Perhaps the candidates are unwilling to talk because civil public discourse is all but extinct in this country. People are simply too single-minded and unwavering to even listen to the ideas of someone with whom they disagree. An example of this: I was at the University of Pennsylvania once for a campus visit, and just happened to be there the same night that former Speaker Newt Gingrich was to address the school.
He spent the whole hour or so he was on stage talking, not about politics, but about some exciting research and technology that he was helping to fund and organize independently. New medical treatments, entrepreneurs he worked with; these are the kinds of things he talked about. The goal of the lecture wasn’t to spark controversy, but instead to inspire the students to want to be more. Yet when the floor was opened up for questions, the first one was a vehement attack from the president of the school’s Democrats.
The worst part of the one-track partisanship that runs amok in America is that neither side will ever be correct. There is no conservative solution to the economy, just as there is no liberal solution to national defense. I am not suggesting that the two candidates are extremes; in fact, I would argue that not too much of substance separates them. But within what little separation does exist is where I believe some real answers lie.
Compromise can solve any problem, but no one group comes away totally happy from it. The candidate that went right for the middle of the political
spectrum, then, would alienate Republicans and Democrats alike, and certainly lose, despite probably having the most workable ideas for government. Of course, being totally moderate would also lead to no news coverage, since the media only finds extremes to be interesting. In the end, I think that we will find that Clint Eastwood’s empty chair deserves to be considered as not a Twitter laughingstock but a powerful metaphor for this election season. We are Eastwood, asking questions to candidates that answer them as often as the chair would.
Garrett Cimina is a freshman majoring in finance and is a Collegian columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org