February 27, 2007

Your Turn: Ball Room Conversation


I was interested in your take on this photo.  It accompanied a recent NYT story titled:  “In Iowa, the Living Room Has Fallen Out of Favor.”

The gist of the piece is that candidates, for the first time, have abandoned the more intimate form of early primary campaigning.  Rather than meeting in small groups in private homes, almost all this year’s activity in the “first in the nation” states is taking place in larger, more anonymous public venues, such as hotel ballrooms.

If the “what” is clear, the “why” isn’t.

The article puts forth two somewhat independent explanations.  On the one hand, we could simply be witnessing an unusual degree of interest in this election.  On the other hand, there is the suggestion that today’s politician has assumed a new status — as cultural celebrity.  Under this scenario, “political rock stars” are turning out fans, along with an unprecedented hoard of media/paparazzi, at the expense of the traditional “participant voter.”  In the process, this is precluding intimacy, and what was, in the past, a chance for real conversation.

But back to the picture, which I find moving in a number of ways.  I’m wondering what the image has to say about either thesis, and what — as its own commentary — it indicates about the election, as well as where we are.

(Todd Heisler/The New York Times. Dubuque, Iowa, February 18, 2007. nytimes.com)

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Michael Shaw
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