Monday, February 11, 2008

James Forman rebuts two media myths

James Forman rebuts two media myths:
Two corrections to the narratives that continue to dominate the media coverage of this campaign.  First is the claim that Clinton is substance while Obama is fluff.  On this, it is worth taking a look at the speeches from Saturday night's Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Virginia.  These are basically the stump speeches that both candidates are now giving around the country.  They are equally substance-full or substance-less depending on your perspective.  I think my friend Miles is right; both are mostly rhetoric.  But either way, they are both equally so.  

Obama is here: Pay special attention to his argument for why he is the better candidate against McCain.  If you have no time to listen for 30 minutes, a good analysis of Obama's speech here:

Here is Clinton's:

In light of these speeches, it is hard to figure out how the substance/fluff narrative survives.  But it does.  Why?  In part I think it is because Obama's speeches from 6 or 2 months ago were less substantive than now.  His website had the details, but he didn't stump on them.  The other is because Clinton is pretty boring, and I'm convinced that people mistake boring for substantive. 

The second narrative that the media just has to abandon concerns race.  Here is the latest egregious example.  Today's Washington Post story on Obama winning, Washington State, Nebraska and Louisiana has one reference to race.  It is this:
Some of the most striking results in the Democratic race came in Louisiana, where early exit polls conducted by the Associated Press showed a stark racial divide between the two candidates. Among white Democrats who said race was an issue for them, 90 percent said they voted for Clinton, while 90 percent of black voters who cited race as an issue said they voted for Obama.  (
That is the story?!  How bout the fact that once again a black candidate who talks openly of the civil rights movement and his own bi-racial background won, by outsized margins overwhelmingly white states.  This time Nebraska and Washington.  Before that Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado, North Dakota, Utah and Iowa.  And just now, today, Maine.  Or maybe the story should be that he has won large amounts of white support in states that have large black majorities (Georgia, South Carolina).  What is the media's obsession with regurgitating the stale racial narrative when the real story is that a candidate who embraces race is nonetheless finding an appeal across racial lines?

Before we despair, one nice thing about this election is that despite the media's laziness, their arguments have not (yet) become self-reinforcing.  The Clintons tried to play the race card before S. Carolina.  Didn't work.  And it isn't working now that the media is doing it.  People aren't letting the opposition research teams or the talking heads define Obama.  People are listening to the candidates (all of them), attending speeches in large numbers, and talking to their neighbors.   This bodes well.


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