Somebody tell the American media to please shut the fuck up. Now, while several journalists and press outfits continue to do an excellent job, much of the television reporting of the presidential election has devolved into a self-congratulatory session of proverbial masturbation by the media elite and over-exposed pundits.
This entire campaign season we’ve seen these pundits inject their own, often self-fulfilling, narratives into reporting. Suddenly, Iowa becomes a tell-all state of things to come in future primary contests. Not because it’s a large state or because it is particularly representative of the U.S. as a whole, and certainly not because it’s idiotic caucus process is in any way indicative of American electoral behavior. Rather, Iowa becomes “important” because of the importance the media bestows upon it. Then when a candidate wins the Iowa caucuses – as Barack Obama did last week – we see the media obsequiously shower the winner with aggrandizing coverage. In just a couple of days, Sen. Obama was transformed from pugnacious underdog into an American messiah and political juggernaut, wielding unmatched electoral force. Of course, in order to ensure the media-driven narratives of the political race materialize, we saw all of the cable news blowhards and talking heads launch a full-throttle attack on Obama’s chief rival: Hillary Clinton. An emotional moment featuring a teary-eyed Clinton in New Hampshire instantly became an emblematically sexist spectacle, as the news networks mockingly replayed the footage without end.
Yet, when Bill Clinton was running for president in 1992, he famously cried after hearing a voter’s life story filled with hardships. This election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney has frequently cried on the campaign trail, at times even crying while reciting a previous story about a time that he cried in the late 1970s. However, both men have been awarded sympathy for their tears and lauded as being emotionally in touch. But when Hillary gets emotional, the pundits smirk. MSNBC gasbags Chris Matthews and Pat Buchanan snicker and publicly ponder whether or not Hillary has the toughness (read: cock and balls) to be president.
Despite the media’s attempt to self-construct the Democratic Party’s ’08 primary storyline – or perhaps in reaction to it – the Democratic voters of New Hampshire on Tuesday night voted for Hillary Clinton as their presidential nominee. With polls giving Obama a 7-point lead in New Hampshire on the day of the primary, Hillary’s upset win was a refreshing rejoinder to a press field that had all but crowned Obama as the nominee. Although predictions are fine and fun, it would be nice if the media spent a little less time discussing the election as solely a horse race dominated by Obama’s Christ-like inevitability and more time on the policies and positions of the candidates. With both parties’ nominating processes still wide open, there’s really no telling who the nominee will become. Here’s a freebie for any cable news host or intellectually lazy journalist: If Barack Obama goes on to win the nomination, use a metaphor about how he was crucified in New Hampshire but was resurrected by later state victories. Also mention he walks on water.
Of course, the coverage of the Republican nominating process hasn’t been much better than the Democrats’, with the media’s search for a Republican front-runner agonizingly wrongheaded. The press has long had a love affair with Sen. John McCain’s “straight-talking” ways. They coo over his many years of political experience, which include advocating continuing failed wars and embarking on needless foreign policy entanglements. It was thus no surprise after McCain’s New Hampshire win Tuesday night, that the talking heads were dubbing him the “candidate to beat.” And while members of the punditocracy love to announce the electoral winners, they take equal pleasure in doling out the title of political loser as well. So without surprise, media figures immediately began writing candidate Mitt Romney’s political epitaph. Seemingly unaware of Romney’s strong second-place showings in Iowa and New Hampshire and with his underreported first place showing in last Saturday’s Wyoming caucus, Romney actually leads his GOP contenders in delegate count – a majority of the final count would give him the nomination.
While the media does not have enough power to affect the election, it does contain an overused ability to alter some electoral outcomes. We’d all be better served if they would step back, report the facts, and… how did I put it? Oh yeah: Shut the fuck up.