(That title works very well with the Itchy and Scratchy jingle. Try it right now.)
Matt Yglesias notes:
(T)he race for the presidency does seem to get orders of magnitude more attention than the others. The convention, in particular, was more like The John Kerry Show, Also Featuring Bill Clinton, Barak Obama, and John Edwards than The Democratic National Convention, Starring John Kerry.
I can't deny this, because it was absolutely true. The level of excitement and the feverish pitch of the cheering built up slowly over the four days, as more and more delegates and media deigned to show up to listen to the speakers. And everything - everything - was, quite understandably, about Kerry in the end.
This shouldn't be surprising. In today's political climate, where the personal touch trumps even the most brilliant speaker or rational mind, and where a politician's choice of tie or birthplace is treated as something to be revered or castigated, we should expect that politicians will be packaged not as decision makers but as stories or narratives. And it's hard to keep track of multiple narratives in all the cringingly gory detail that is often presented in the mainstream media (Kerry eats pb&j on the campaign trail made for him by his personal butler! Edwards' face looks funny when he speaks!). If every single politician was subject to this sort of mythologizing narration, media pipelines everywhere would explode and spew their pointless information sludge all over America. (Perhaps this is what Tom Ridge was referring to when he raised the terror alert.)
So, the media picks and chooses. Of course, the people with interesting stories, like Jack Ryan, get reams of newsprint, but otherwise only the most important candidates are singled out. Tom DeLay may be just as bad as President Bush, just as Obama may have all of Kerry's best characteristics and more. But concentrating on both to the extent that the media has been trained to do would fry the circuits, so to speak.
Unless TV networks decide either to tone down their personal coverage of all politicians equally, this situation must continue or risk confusing or overwhelming voters with far too much trivial information about far too many people. In the same way that too many characters in a film can result in an overall disorientation and probable dislike of the movie, a concentration on too many politicians in the party can also backfire. Most voters just want to know about their local Congressional races, and the Presidency - force-feeding them more than that will always be a losing strategy.