For the past year, I’ve noticed that the media and the political class have been a little frightened of this election. It started last year with the complete shunning of Edwards and his message of populism. The media has continued to shun Edwards. Note, that he came in second in Iowa. Instead of more media interest in him, we were treated to loads of articles about the 3rd place winner.
Now, if you read my blog you’ll notice that I do the same. For me, it’s because I’m disgusted with the Clinton campaign and I don’t necessarily trust Edwards. Yet, I have not given money to any campaign, nor do I have friends deep insides these campaigns. Okay, that’s not necessarily true, but my friends are not influencing me as we don’t ever talk about their campaigns and they never blog or email on politics while working campaigns.
With the Beltway circuit things are a little different. Listen to the TV hosts on these shows. They’re not journalist by any stretch of the imagination, they’re opinionmakers. They let slip that they hang out socially with the people they pretend to cover. When a Senator goes on a show and casually mentions a party both attended hosted by another media outlet, you can see how things can devolve into the circle jerk realm.
While they spent most of last year telling us that Clinton was inevitable, they were also the first in line to chew on the carcass of her 3rd place finish. In one state. Instead of spending most of last year focusing on if Sen. Obama is “black enough” or if “America is ready for a Black president”, they could have been telling us more about Edwards, Dodd, Biden or Kucinich. While Mike Huckabee was trying to run a campaign, these people shunned him to focus on the larger (to them) question of “will Fred Thompson run?”. Get that? Over the summer of 2007, there was more press on a person not running for president than there was on 5 of his fellow Republicans.
In any election cycle, before any votes are cast, these opinionmakers could just say any old thing on any show and they were confident that the sheeple, the American public was eating it up and digesting it. They are clearly stuck in an old model of doing business, of handling business. 10 years ago, this could have worked. For the most part, we did not have access to what was really happening on the other side of the country. We had to settle for what they wanted us to see on TV. We saw the impact of technology on the 2006 mid-term elections. With a cellphone that has a camera and internet access anyone can scoop any media outlet. You get information unfiltered. Photos get posted that aren’t approved by a campaign. The photos are also posted usually with the proper context, something our newsotainment shows rarely do. A pundit that will use a candidates words out of context to fit their predetermined frame, can be called on it moments after the sentence is uttered.
To a certain extent, these newsotainment outlets sort of get that the times have changed. They all have blogs where comments are heavily moderated. A disjointed, racist comment with poor grammar or spelling and no truths will be posted immediately, while (from my experience these last few years) posts that simply call the poster out on his or her sloppy reporting are delayed or never posted. But they very rarely engage their readers. Their service to us is to post something that may or may not be completely true with whatever bias of the day is and let the readers hash it out. They don’t seem to be ready for readers that are informed. Readers that are informed beyond what that specific media outlet has told us what they wanted us to know. Note the drama surrounding Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell. First she got embroiled in the Woodward/Plame fiasco, then she went on to repeat the lie that Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats (this led to WaPoOnline shutting down its blog) and because of informed readers calling her on both situations, she decided that despite being an ombudsman, that she was just not going to reply to “critics” any more. All of this is interesting because after the Woodward mess, Howell said:
“I am getting a lot of reaction and, from readers, it is all bad,” Howell told E&P today, referring to the fallout from Woodward’s disclosure that he spoke to a confidential White House source about Plame in 2003. “We are being barraged with calls. They think it was wrong for him not to tell his editors and wrong for the Post not to tell readers.” The ombudsman also pointed out that the e-mails “are all very different. I have not seen [an organized] campaign.”
To someone like Howell, the idea that many readers can create their own emails is unthinkable. She really does believe that there was an organized campaign. Liberals are a lot of things, but ‘organized’ doesn’t even rank. Considering how many people were following the Plame story despite the fact that the major news outlets were either ignoring it, or barely covering it, yes something like what happened with Woodward would be noticed.
I say all of this because Things are Getting Serious.
As the Iowa caucuses neared, we got even less coverage of Edwards. The media-determined 2nd and 3rd tier candidates were practically ignored. By cramming religion down out throat Huckabee got noticed by the media, but his message, which is eerily similar to Edwards’ hasn’t really been reported by the media. Many of us vote based on the goals or pledges of the candidate. If we are not told those goals by the media, the only place we can turn to is the candidate’s website. That’s not going to be an unbiased search. One can always turn to Google, but then you’ll run into several factless sites or even worse, that endless ring of sites who only reference each other hoping that you take it at face value rather than click the link. Yes, there are times when it seems like the MSM is willfully not covering a story. For this election cycle, that uncovered story is populism.
Kucinich and Gravel, both based their platforms on it, but the media has decided that those two are not viable candidates. Edwards has been running for president for almost 4 years now on populism, but the media has decided that how much he pays for a haircut is way more important that what is happening beneath that haircut. Mike Huckabee has a very strong message based on populism, but the media decided it was easier to dismiss him because he’s a preacher. Because of this wall, one begins to wonder just what are they afraid of.
I had noted this shunning at the beginning of the summer, but didn’t give it much thought. For whatever reason, I still have this super tiny optimistic side that message will overcome frivolity. But what happens when what seemed like happenstance (after all Britney Spears actions are definitely more important than choosing a president), becomes a trend, which becomes tradition or conventional wisdom?
Iowa showed us that The People speak. They spoke loudly for hope and caring for your fellow man. After years of having both parties and the media tell us that there is never enough money for health care, education, or any other societal good, The People decided that they were willing to go with the candidate that offered it anyway. The caucus goers in Iowa turned out in record numbers to vote for something the media didn’t tell them about. The caucus goers in Iowa voted for their best interests, not the interests of the Beltway insiders. The caucus goers in Iowa voted against the establishment.
As we’ve seen these past 3 days, things have gotten a bit ugly because of that. All of a sudden, the media who told us that Obama was all flash decided to look at his record and learned that, wait a second, he isn’t all flash. They looked at Edwards record in the Senate, found that Edwards refuted quite a few of his votes then, but has worked these past 4 years to undo the damage he was a part of. They looked at Huckabee and found that even despite a few scandals there are people who still like him.
What they decided to tell us instead was how Barack Obama changed his mind on things. The nerve! John Edwards made money being a lawyer. Yawn, you did that in 2003. And Mike Huckabee is pulling in homeschoolers. They vote?!?!
Since Huckabee started gaining in the polls, the media did some research. Apparently they didn’t like the message because all we’ve gotten from our newsotainment centers are hit pieces on Obama, Edwards and Huckabee. I don’t mind the media dissecting Huckabee’s very Christian Christmas ad. I do mind that they spent a week on it and still no one really mentioned his campaign goals.
With John Edwards, most articles or reports wind up being about his wife, the son he lost or how much money he made as a lawyer. Considering that most people who run for president are lawyers, it makes no sense that Edwards is being picked on. That is, until you realize that by running on a populist platform Edwards is bucking that system that made him money. By turning his back on that class, he’s basically turning his back on all the Beltway insiders. They know that they are not strong enough to do that. So they feel the need to bring him down.
Since Iowa, the hit pieces on both Edwards and Huckabee have gained momentum. The articles I’ve read on CNN, MSNBC or ABC News are almost giddy in Huckabee’s 3rd place setting in New Hampshire. And while their showings in Iowa have made the media do some reporting, what little there is always address the populism of both candidates derisively. All of this made me laugh at the thought of the DC populace sitting there thinking that this was to be a coronation of their fellow friends, Clinton and Romney, instead they got their Yankee butts kicked by two Southerners and a black man.
I knew they were scared when both Clinton’s and Romney’s campaigns co-opted “change” and Clinton decided that the youth vote was important. The they both arrived in New Hampshire the next morning, Sen. Clinton immediately deriding Iowa and her voters, Bill Clinton almost disgusted not only at the number of voters who braved the cold, but also the number of young voters. Meanwhile, Gov. Romney tried to laugh it off as if a 2nd place finish was his ultimate goal all along.
Naturally money and power will try to protect money and power. I believe the Wall Street Journal and Fox News have even started boring their die hard fans with their daily Huckabee hit pieces. So since Iowa, it’s been up to the op-ed pages to do more of these. All of this culminated in an article by George Will that should have been titled I’ve Been Crapping My Pants Since Thursday, he called it The Problem with Populism. (Thanks to BooMan for pointing me to this, as I try to avoid Will at all costs.) The article is a two-fer. A hit job on both Huckabee and Edwards. It’s bad enough I linked to this one, but just to give you a taste of how threatened the Beltway feels I’ll give Will’s overdramatic and poorly written prose:
He[Mike Huckabee] and John Edwards, flaunting their histrionic humility in order to promote their curdled populism, hawked strikingly similar messages in Iowa, encouraging self-pity and economic hypochondria. Edwards and Huckabee lament a shrinking middle class. Well.
Well indeed. Exactly who are these two to care about people who make less money than them? How dare they remind people that they were both born of working class people? If the middle class really wanted to make money they should have just gone to Ivy League schools, met the right people and gotten jobs at The Washington Post, MSNBC or on the Hill.
Naturally, because this is Will, there is some serious fudging or misunderstanding of numbers and then he hits us with:
According to Edwards, the North Carolina of his youth resembled Chechnya today — “I had to fight to survive. I mean really. Literally.” Huckabee, a compound of Uriah Heep, Elmer Gantry and Richard Nixon, preens about his humble background: “In my family, ‘summer’ was never a verb.” Nixon, who maundered about his parents’ privations and wife’s cloth coat, followed Lyndon Johnson, another miscast president whose festering resentments and status anxieties colored his conduct of office. Here we go again?
You know, reading that I’m positive that Will glimpsed briefly at the people of New Orleans swamped by Hurricane Katrina and sniffed, “Well, why didn’t they just go to their winter homes up north?” Even today, he’d look at the unrestored Gulf coast and pretend it has nothing to do with reality since it doesn’t affect him. In this paragraph, Will let it be known that the only people who should be allowed to be president are “the right kind” of people. Clinton and Romney type of people.
Will doesn’t write for us. For you and me. He writes for the Connecticut homeowners who work in DC and summer in the Hamptons. They read this and nod their heads in complete understanding agreeing how politics just isn’t what it used to be now that people have gotten involved. Think I’m lying?
In today’s Washington Post, there was an article title Obama’s Rise Dismays Clinton Supporters. That title is so boring that I almost didn’t read it. I clicked anway. What I learned is that Clinton, isn’t drawing the crowds and her supporters in New Hampshire are very upset by that. Then the article turns to how people who couldn’t afford Boston have practically flooded parts of New Hampshire. Those people, those middle class people are Obama supporters.
Ted and April Weismann are part of New Hampshire’s demographic shift. They moved to Brookline in 1999 from the Boston area partly for more affordable real estate, and they have seen many other young families follow them. They say that they, like many of their peers, are supporting Obama.
Well, that was certainly subtle. But then the article gets longer and at the end get a clearer picture:
Yet there is palpable disbelief among top Clinton supporters here that she should be facing a tight finish in a state that was once seen as Clinton turf, and against a candidate with as thin a Washington r¿sum¿ as Obama’s.
Mary Louise Hancock, the 87-year-old grande dame of the state’s Democrats, said she “resented” that independent voters were poised to influence the outcome of the Democratic primary, saying it turned the vote into a “personal-liking affair” dominated by “students and the trendies.”
So I ask…what do they have to fear?