Matt Taibbi has a terrific article savaging modern campaign reporting. He's of course 100% correct, and his observations are perspicacious, but he fundamentally does not understand what democracy is all about.
Democracy has never been about "government of the people, by the people and for the people." This was a bullshit platitude when Lincoln said it, it's never been true, and it never will be true. Every government since the invention of politics has been a government of the elite, by the elite and for the elite. This practice has been so thoroughly sanctified by millennia of practice that it's not worth getting upset about.
Democracy is about setting a slightly higher floor on how poorly the elite can govern.
In the bad old days, before the Glorious Revolution, the King could govern as he pleased so long as he didn't actually piss the people off sufficiently that a rival could raise an army in rebellion. It is a sad—but again so common as to be entirely unsurprising—commentary that every third King actually did govern so poorly that a rival could raise a rebel army.
What democracy actually does is set a higher floor for government ineptitude, corruption and oppression of the people. Instead of raising an army and actually fighting a rebellion, a government can be only so bad so that the people don't actually vote them out of office. Democracy does not ensure good government, it only prevents the very worst government.
It's entirely possible that founders of the Constitution had some bullshit utopian notion about the citizens actually running the government, or at least setting the broad policy agenda; it's also possible they were entirely realistic.
The people as a whole do not care about The Issues. They might care about some particular issue when a mass movement gains traction. But even then, they care about that issue not because they've rationally deliberated the merits, but because the incompetence of the current government has caused sufficient anomie, alienation and frustration in the populace that they latch onto whatever bullshit idea can give them the vague hope and group identity denied by the mainstream status quo.
In this regard, democracy actually works: No established democratic country has ever changed its government by rebellion. There has, to my knowledge, been only a single civil war (our own) in a democratic country, and even that was due not to the incompetence of the government, but rather because the American South had a socio-economic context so different from the North that they formed a separate national identity.
The politics of democracy has not in modern times become theater. It has always been theater. It is only now that the theatrical character of politics has become explicit.