The 2008 Presidential Election
Airdate: Every. Single. Day.
It’s a staple of almost all end of year television pieces attempting to recap 2008, but in many ways I resisted placing the 2008 presidential election that (spoiler alert) saw Barack Obama ascend to the Presidency. It isn’t that I don’t think the event was historical or monumental, but rather that part of my believes that television reaches its greatest potential as an episodic medium and that the election’s impact on that has been tangential at best.
But over time, and after reading the various lists which place the election prominently, I started to realize that television is about the medium as much as it is the message. It was the media through which the world of American politics entered into public consciousness that made it so meaningful to the past year. Yes, some of these were pure novelty, like the awful and pointless attempt to channel Star Wars and introduce holograms to the CNN newsroom, but others resonated at something that fundamentally changed the way we looked at politics through television.
One of them is technological but in a more meaningful fashion: once quite rightly eclipsed by the internet as the best way to track election results, John King’s magic map revolutionized the way we monetize broadcast television (or, for those who don’t get the 30 Rock joke, made it far easier to see what data actually meant). His ability to zoom in and out seemed like a novelty, but he was able to compare stats at the click of a button, and move county to county in races that (while they were not eventually as close as they could have been) were changing with each minute.
The year also saw, though, the return of Saturday Night Live to the world of political satire and the realm of public consciousness. After Jon Stewart took over as the voice of a nation of discontented youth over the Bush administration, the rise of Sarah Palin and the talent of Tina Fey coincided in a perfect comic storm: Fey’s impression took the nation by storm, and a creatively uneven show was suddenly a household name again.
The result was that this election felt like an event that reading about wasn’t enough: perhaps it was Obama’s presence, or Palin’s incompetence becoming even more apparent when filmed (the camera adds pounds, not brain cells), but there was something about this election that demanded the medium of television to tell its story. While I was content to read about the recent Parliamentary crisis which gripped Canada, I felt like I needed to watch Barack Obama take to that Chicago stage and address the nation.
And while I may not share my brother’s enthusiasm for politics, I have to admit that in this instance their intersection with my favourite cultural medium was certainly something to marvel at, and ultimately memorialize in the 2008 Television Time Capsule.
Related Posts at Cultural Learnings
[For more details on the Cultural Learnings 2008 Television Time Capsule, click here!]