Political Spin: The Media's Election Night After Party

The perennial stereotype of the horse racing gambler has been recounted in books and movies as the kind of person who is able to see attributes in the horses that they inevitably lose money on that just aren't there. It almost seemed that they got more pleasure out of not winning than they ever could if their horse actually came in first.

The post race political spin last night was starting to sound the same way as the Democrats began to explain why losing the governor's races in New Jersey and New York wasn't indicative of anything at all other than the will of the voters. "The president", said the White House spokesman, "is not watching returns."

This was one of the funnier quotes of the night - what the hell else would a wonkish pol like Obama, who lives at ground zero in the most political city in the country, be doing? Bowling? Playing Scrabble with the girls? Updating his Fantasy Football picks?

The article "It's The Spending, Stupid" that was released before the results were final in New York's District 23 by Cynthia Lummis, a Republican Congresswoman from Wyoming, was just as funny. "Doug Hoffman’s ascendance is a referendum on the reckless spending of the Obama administration and the Pelosi-Reid Congress." It's kind of hard to call this race a referendum on spending when an unknown Democrat actually won the race last night in District 23, but I'm sure Rep. Lummis will come up with an inventive way to recast this outcome into a positive development.

The races themselves almost seem incidental, so hungry is our political establishment on both sides of the aisle for a chance to trumpet their agendas. I've often wondered why, in such a large country, we can't just accept the fact that people who call themselves Democrats or Republicans in one part of the country may not have the same ideological beliefs as those in another part - that the membership in a political party is an affiliation of similarly minded people in the truest sense of the word, rather than a brain washing syndicate that attempts to indoctrinate its ranks from coast to coast the way fascist dictators do.

The people of New Jersey and Virginia and New York's District 23 know these people running for office better than anyone on the national level ever could. When the smoke clears, and the cameras and the reporters are gone, the voters don't care about the national agendas - they care about what's happening on their streets, in their school systems, and in their neighborhoods and downtowns.

But reporters don't call regular citizens to ask them what they are thinking. They call experts and analysts instead. Then they call Sarah Palin and Glen Beck and Keith Olbermann to get the final word on the matter. They use old articles for research. They listen to other journalists and op-ed writers, and end up publishing coverage that reinforces a binary version of reality, as if we are not a multi-dimensional, multiple narrative population who may or may not act in ways that protect our own self-interests.

It would be easy to say that we have devolved into a nation that is all talk and no action, but that isn't really the case. In many ways, to the people who package and sell political talk, reporting on the saying is is much more lucrative than reporting on the doing - how many ways can you describe the construction of a new bridge that will take two years to complete?

But view that bridge through the eyes of an editor, or a public relations specialist, and all of a sudden the building of forms and the pouring of concrete take on a whole new light as we are bombarded by accusations of graft and corruption, payoffs and kickbacks, shoddy workmanship and back room dealmaking.

To the people who need the bridge, the politics of it is secondary to actually getting it completed so they can drive over it to get where they are going.

It would be disingenuous to write all of this and not admit that there is certain amount of irony in my writing this, since I have my own political and cultural opinion blog. At the end of the week, I've written a whole lot more than anything I've done to take action. Maybe what I have to say ads to America's political narrative. Maybe it doesn't.

The upshot of all of this is that for the next two weeks, you will be bombarded with headlines like "Palin's Candidate Loses In NY Congressional Race", "How Will Obama Respond To GOP Wins In VA And NJ?", "Dems, Incumbents Get Wake-Up Call", "Analysis: Elections Not A Referendum On Obama", "A Warning To Democrats: It's Not 2008 Anymore", "GOP Wins Reveal Cracks In Obama Coalition", and "VA and NJ Elections: Obama World Stayed Home".

These headlines, however stirring, will do nothing to alleviate the high unemployment rate, and will have no bearing on any efforts to stimulate the economy, the two things America is really interested in seeing improve.

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ch555x said...

Sort of like trying to swim in a bathtub. Simply put, the elections weren't much of anything. The only one I found interesting was some town in Colorado legalizing possession of mary jane up to an oz...

Miranda said...

Excellent analysis of the insanity of it all.

Matthew Wright said...

Great piece. This is no referendum on the President. I actually think it would be a novel idea if folks waited longer than 10 months before criticizing Barack's policies for not working. Corzine was vehemently disliked in NJ, and Deeds was not inspiring at all. It was easy to see where that was going.

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