WITH Maryland's primary only four days away, it's worth...

Salmagundi

February 28, 1992

WITH Maryland's primary only four days away, it's worth recalling James Harvey Robinson's description in "The Human Comedy" (1937):

"Political campaigns are designedly made into emotional orgies which endeavor to distract attention from the real issues involved . . . ."

* * *

JUST BEFORE the New Hampshire primary, Sen. Barbara Mikulski shared the latest politician's nightmare with editorial writers at the Sunpapers -- remote-control television.

It takes a lot of television advertising to win elections these days, she said, and the big fear you often hear expressed in the Senate cloakroom and other gathering places of politicians is the ease with which viewers armed with remote controls that change channels or mute sound can now "zap" those commercials.

Since we believe politics started downhill with the advent of the Madison Avenue televised campaign pitch, we do not share the senator's concern. Maybe, just maybe, the campaign development that is epitomized by the mindless soundbite and the slick "product presentation" will soon become a victim of new technology and a thing of the past.

There may already be some evidence of this. Sen. Bob Kerrey greatly outspent Paul Tsongas on television advertising in New Hampshire, but got only a third as many votes. Could it be that voters didn't learn about the impressive credentials of this war hero with a demonstrated ability to beat Republican candidates because every time a campaign commercial came on -- his or anyone's -- zap!

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