Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Media Has Put a Finger on the Scale

That the mainstream media has been in the tank for both current front-runners for their respective parties’ presidential nomination can now be taken as a given. The xenophobic Tribble-head was and is an entirely media-driven creation, with nearly $2 billion (yes, billion with a “b”) worth of free media coverage. That’s 46% of the entire field of 17 candidates, two and a half times as much as Hillary Clinton, 75% more than all the Democrats combined, and 64% more than all the other Republicans combined. The despicable Les Moonves, CEO of CBS, sums it all up for us. Speaking of the Trump candidacy, he said “It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS.” And that’s all that little turd cares about.

On the Democratic side, it was more a matter of timing. As Adam H. Johnson puts it,
Who is and isn’t a “serious” candidate in our modern public relations-driven democracy is largely tautological. Whoever the news media say is important early on typically becomes the most important. This leads to a feedback loop that anoints the “frontrunner” in the “invisible primary” where success is measured by name recognition, money raised, party insider support and a host of “serious” accomplishments, all before the most essential of feedback has been provided: actual voting.
And pre-Iowa numbers are even more staggering than the cumulative totals, which show that roughly 70% of the free media coverage on the Democratic side has gone to Clinton.

The earlier the primary of caucus, the more driven it is by name recognition. So when, a little over a month before Iowa, Hillary Clinton had received 11 times more airtime than Bernie Sanders, that’s significant. (Joe Biden’s decision not to run got six times as much coverage as the entirety of the Sanders campaign as of late last November.) To be fair, the HRC campaign still got less than half the attention of the Drumpf.

The media was also swift to declare—in headlines—Clinton the winner of every debate, even though Sanders gained ground among actual voters after most of them.

The Washington Post did its part by running 16 negative stories about Sanders in 16 hours, oh so coincidentally in the period Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) describes as “includ[ing] the crucial Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan, and the next morning’s spin.” A convincing Clinton win in Michigan would probably have ended the Sanders insurgency. But pollsters ended up with considerable egg on their respective faces when Sanders didn’t in fact, lose by 20+ points, but won.

Indeed, because of that victory in Michigan (and subsequent comfortable wins in Idaho and Utah), Sanders remains a potential if unlikely nominee. He’s not the favorite, but it’s not out the question that he might yet get more pledged delegates than Clinton will. Surely even Debbie Wasserman Schultz isn’t so inept or corrupt (or Hillary Clinton so megalomaniacal or narcissistic) as to deny the nomination to a candidate with more actually elected delegates… right? Right?

Of course, the likes of Marcos Moulitsas are dreadfully fearful that voters might actually support someone other than the insider candidate, so he proclaimed on March 4 that if Sanders hadn’t closed the gap on Clinton by March 15, he’d forbid anything negative to be said about Clinton on his site (the Daily Kos) thereafter. Moulitsas is an idiot but not uninformed; he knew full well that the states voting on the 15th favored Clinton, but that Sanders was likely to take the majority of the next eight. Depending on who’s counting, Sanders needs to win about 57 or 58% of the post-March 15 delegates to get a majority (leaving superdelegates out of the mix for the moment). That’s exactly what he did on March 22. Today there are caucuses in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington. Sanders is expected to do well in all three states. Will he win a sufficient majority of the remaining pledged delegates? Barring a major intervening event, probably not. But such events do happen, and it’s not at all unreasonable for him to stick around a while longer. (Remember, it was June when Clinton dropped out of the 2008 race, needing a far higher percentage of remaining delegates than Sanders needs now.)

But the New York Times has had enough of this democracy stuff. They’ve got a coronation to plan. In a piece by Amy Chozick and Trip Gabriel published yesterday, Bernie Sanders might as well never have existed. Clinton, you see, is “turn[ing] her attention to a general election campaign.” Sanders, who has well over 40% of the pledged delegates thus far awarded, is irrelevant. They don’t even entertain the notion that Clinton might not get the nomination. To be fair, they’re equal opportunity incompetents: no Republican candidate other than the former reality TV buffoon is really considered, and only Ted Cruz is even mentioned.

Inevitability and electability have been the twin pillars of the Clinton campaign since the beginning. The former may just succeed as a self-fulfilling prophecy. The oft-repeated mantra, “I like Bernie, but he can’t win,” thus takes on a double meaning, with different responses. A lot of people seem to think that the unlikelihood of a Sanders nomination is a reason to vote for Clinton. Sorry, but that’s just stupid. If you prefer Clinton, by all means vote for her, but “he can’t win” becomes relevant in a primary only if there are more than two candidates in a winner-take-all state (you might prefer Kasich but will vote for Cruz to stop Trump), or if the unelectability extends to the general election (you prefer Sanders, but don’t think he can beat Trump, whereas Clinton can).

Of course, the media have been rather scrupulous about keeping actual numbers about electability out of the headlines. Why? Well, because Sanders currently annihilates Trump by 17.5 points. Clinton wins, too, but by more than six fewer points. Sanders also fares 5.5 points better against Cruz and 7.5 better against Kasich (the difference between a narrow win and a fairly substantial loss for the Democrats).

But what’s really interesting about the Times article is this: “Mr. Trump has shown a particular weakness among female voters, who favored Mrs. Clinton 55 percent to 35 percent in a New York Times/CBS News poll released this week, twice the gender gap of the 2012 presidential election, when President Obama defeated Mitt Romney.” Interesting. Trouble is, Curmie actually bothered to look at the source, the published version of those poll results. There’s not a thing there that separates male and female voters. The polls may have said precisely what Chozik and Gabriel claim, but the documentation they provide doesn’t say so. This would be slipshod journalism at the undergrad level, let alone for someone working for the freaking New York Times.

That poll, unlike the article which uses it as evidence, does recognize that the Senator from Vermont is still alive and well, and his campaign is at least the former if not the latter, as well. Accordingly, Sanders and Clinton are both matched up against their likely GOP opposition. And Sanders beats Trump by 15 vs. 10 for Clinton; interestingly, Sanders/Cruz and Sanders/Kasich were not listed as possibilities, at least in the published data. It does say something about American politics that the two leading candidates have positive/negative ratings of -33 (Trump) and -21 (Clinton). Meanwhile, the two candidates who would stand the best chance of beating the opposition candidate in November, Sanders and Kasich, are ignored. Welcome to American democracy.

But you know who does divide male and female voters? Quinnipiac. In their latest poll, Clinton does beat Trump handily among women voters, 16 points (although only by 2 points among white women). Sanders wins by 29. Yes, 29. Tell me again about how women are all about Clinton and only Clinton. More tellingly, isn’t it interesting that the Times article cites evidence that may or may not exist, but fails to mention even more overwhelming support for Sanders.

It is no secret that Curmie is pro-Sanders and anti-Clinton. Both, independently. Not pro-Sanders because anti-Clinton. Not anti-Clinton because pro-Sanders. So those who disagree will no doubt think this is all sour grapes. Part of it may be. But I prefer both my politicians and my journalists to be at least reasonably honest. That is not happening in this campaign.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like that you are an honest socialist, favoring a socialist because he is a socialist.
I disagree with you, on the basis that socialism has not and will not work.

I will vote for whomever I think will be the least bad.

CW