The mediated version of reality, however, is (and arguably must be) the stock in trade of political campaigns, so they spend millions of dollars dousing flames in gasoline. It's all carefully crafted and quite effective—it just doesn't quite match my experience as a real person with other real people in a real world. The saddest thing is that I forget this (and that's why the campaigns work as they do, and why results never quite manifest in any satisfactory manner in reality).
As with relationships, I also have to unplug my political decisions from the mediated messages. Mudslinging and pep rallies are designed to get me to act in a desired fashion. The "news" is a business, so it wants importance and controversy to get viewers and readers (in addition to any other biases which may be present). Journalism isn't dead by any stretch, but there's a lot of goop through which to sift.
What's universal across candidates and media creators is an exaggeration of the election's importance—it's an event now, rather than a civic duty. Not hard to see why all of the players would have a stake in cranking things up to eleven, but a deep breath, a glance at the Constitution, and a look around anywhere without a screen are really all it takes for me to realize that I am simply casting a vote—in the case of the presidency, a vote for a specific, intentionally limited office. Getting caught up in the emotions of it all is totally OK until that distracts from and distorts the true nature of the task at hand.
Regrettably, it seems like the desire to motivate people toward that task (and toward executing it in a specific way) often does just that. Thankfully, I still get to cast my vote, and that's the part that's really my responsibility. Much of the rest is just hype.