Politics is an especially tricky business in this age of short attention spans



If you’re middle-aged or older, you’re probably aware that the attention span of Americans in general — including you — has been declining in this age of multiplying media and countless intellectual stimuli.

It’s small solace to me that my own loss of memory is probably attributable not just to advancing age but also to this explosion of media. The filing cabinet between my ears has long since become overloaded, mainly with trivia, rendering some of its contents less accessible than they used to be.

Now, where was I going with this line of thought? Oh, yeah, my point here is that our ever-shorter attention span is making some aspects of our lives ever more difficult. One wonders if we’ll ever be able to understand it all. A media philosopher like Marshall McLuhan would have felt like the proverbial mosquito in a nudist colony if he  were plying his trade in this day and age. How could he decide where to begin?

Look at the world of politics, for example. The leading politicians of just a few generations ago — Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, et al — likely would have a much tougher time selling themselves and their agendas. Some pols of those days might even fail altogether if they weren’t attuned to the intellectual rhythms of our time.

In a provocative essay for The Guardian, journalist Jill  Abramson ARGUES that Donald Trump is, in some ways, better suited than Hillary Clinton for campaigning in these times:

Clinton is definitely the candidate for voters with long attention spans.

That could be a challenge in a world where the human attention span has fallen to eight seconds, shorter than a goldfish…


As president, Bill Clinton, of course, was also famous for his long-winded, policy-rich speeches. But this was before the iPhone, Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat helped usher us into the age of distraction.

No one is better suited to these times than Donald Trump, the candidate of short attention spans.

Unlike Clinton, who often starves the press pack following her, Trump is constantly feeding them a 24-hour diet of delectable and irresistible snacks.


By generating so much “news”, Trump keeps the press in a reactive state. It’s head-spinning for reporters, unless they are the “chosen ones” he calls between stops. And some of their bosses don’t mind: Trump is traffic and ratings gold. In return, he gets more than a billion dollars in free media.


Given that [Clinton] is the long attention span candidate, it’s not surprising that she doesn’t have a memorable or catchy campaign slogan that sums up what she wants to change or do as president. Is it Hillary for America or Fighting for Us? I can’t remember (perhaps my withering attention span is to blame). It’s certainly nothing memorable like Making America Great Again, or Hope and Change, Morning in America, or even Bill’s It’s the Economy, Stupid.