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Important Facts about Those Who Actually Choose Your President

chicago dyke's picture

Elizabeth Edwards put it to me very plainly. She told me that any airtime is like free campaign time on TV, and the media can make a spike in the polls more quickly and significantly than many boots on the ground can accomplish. That's the depressing truth about our electorate: if they don't see it on TeeVee, it's doesn't exist to them. I'm being lazy and just going with the Yahoo story, but the bullet points are very useful reminders about how the "democratic" process works:

he study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, to be released Monday, also portrays the political press as a hidebound institution out of touch with the desires of citizens.

Among the findings:

• Stories focused more on fundraising and polls than on where candidates stood on the issues, despite a public demand for more attention to the policies, views and records of the candidates.

• The public's attention to campaign news is higher now than it was at similar points in the past two elections, but that interest is only shared by less than one in four people.

• Five candidates — Democrats Clinton and Barack Obama and Republicans Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain — received more than half the coverage. Elizabeth Edwards, the cancer-stricken wife of Democrat John Edwards, received almost as much media attention as her husband.

• Democrats, overall, got more coverage — and more positive ink and airtime — than Republicans.

• Obama enjoyed the friendliest coverage of the presidential field; McCain endured the most negative. That was due in part to the media's focus on fundraising; Obama raised more than expected and McCain raised less.

The report is the most thorough analysis yet of media coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign and offers both a sober evaluation as well as a dash of guidance on how to improve. But the report's authors are not necessarily optimistic. They note that a study of the 2000 presidential election reached similar conclusions.

They argue that this election could represent a generational struggle in both parties, but that early media coverage failed to capture that fundamental tension.

"If American politics is changing," the report concluded, "the style and approach of the American press does not appear to be changing with it."

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said journalists face a conundrum: In a campaign that started as early as this one, why spend resources in a detailed analysis of candidates views and stances when the public is not that engaged? Or is the public not engaged because the media is focusing on tactics and insider stories that don't affect readers, viewers and listeners?

The report analyzed 1,742 articles about the presidential contest that appeared from January through May in 48 news outlets including print, online, network TV, cable and radio news and talk shows.

None of this is news to you, Gentle Reader. But it leaves me with one inescapable conclusion: we need a Constitutional amendment regulating money in politics, and a return to something like the Fairness Doctrine.

Without those things, we won't ever have a real democracy.

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Corporations exist to make money, and because they are considered people instead of property, we have the perverted reality that property - not allowed to vote, not part of We, The People - can lobby congress to increase profits.

Corporate Personhood, a malignant cell 100 years ago, is now a fully metastasized cancer on the body politic. It may be incurable.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

with a dollop of refined sugar to help it slide down, MSM news is almost entirely People Magazine at the level of a middle school clique; who said what that hurt whose feelings, clothes, hairstyles, money and possessions, rumor and supposition and flash with no substance. Blame the audience as much as the media, there’s a feedback loop in operation here, stories like “A is bigger than B.” are both easily prepared and easily swallowed, whereas “A is different than B in nuanced ways, the import of which can only be understood if considered in the light of multiple relevant historical antecedents.” is a story that cannot be condensed to fit between commercial breaks – a time period at the maximum of an average viewer’s attention span.

Progressives must employ better slogans if we want to lead in a positive way, an art that our side seems to have lost. Think New Deal, Great Society, Social Security, Works Progress Administration. Would, for instance, the S-CHIP legislation have gotten enough votes for a veto override if it were instead called the Healthy Children Initiative? (Whilst reminding all the Christian legislators of their higher power obligation under Matthew 25:45.)

Welcome back CD, hope your recovery is swift and complete. A pleasure to read you as always; out of respect and affection I will try to refrain from totally pissing you off for the next 24 hours. (((()))).

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

heh, just kidding.

but i do disagree with this:

Progressives must employ better slogans if we want to lead in a positive way, an art that our side seems to have lost. Think New Deal, Great Society, Social Security, Works Progress Administration. Would, for instance, the S-CHIP legislation have gotten enough votes for a veto override if it were instead called the Healthy Children Initiative?

you underestimate the republicans' control of the media, as well as the sadly uncritical mind of many average amurkins, if you this this is the problem. real progressives are bright, funny, talented. i know this because i've seen so many on the blogs for the last seven years. i'll grant you that Harry and Nancy hate us, and would rather pay rahm-approved mush middle consultant types to craft their messages. but slaughter? lee? kucinich? they have been employing great slogans, for a long time now. it only counts if CNN and MSGOP show a clip in the 5-8pm slot.

progressives can't buy, force their way into, or shame the traditional media into covering them. because in truth, the media isn't only about profit, or rather, not just short term profit. any liberal or progressive who gets "too much" exposure will be invisible in our media, or at the best misrepresented by them. just ask howard dean.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Vowed to be gentle and still I get poked, repeatedly, with sharp sticks. Good to know your feisty bits are fully operative.

Progressives are bright and talented and etc, heartily agreed, but they also tend to be honest and forthright and that makes a lot of people nervous, no clue how to process anything straightforward, and too often wonky in a way that puts most people to sleep. I'm not calling for better ideas, just better slogans to sell them with. That is more of a challenge for progressives than for the Plutocrats what with being burdened by the requirement for honesty. The Plutes have been very successful with the likes of "Clean Skies" for unmitigated pollution and "Healthy Forests" for unmediated clear-cutting. We should be able to do at least as well at finding catchy titles for genuinely beneficial programs.

What exactly would be the words with hooks in them that have emerged from Kucinich or Lee or Slaughter? “The eyes that see through the lies” or “Strength through peace” or “Ensuring that all Americans have a decent place to live”? All fine and dandy but none of them give me that hindbrain emoto-tingle. Examples, please.

And truly, Nancy and Harry most certainly don't hate you. They don't even dislike you. Well, maybe Nancy a little, she has gotten touchy over the Code Pink neighborhood campers but really, I would be too. (It is curious there were no encamped protestors at Harry's house this summer, surely not a function of the 100°F days and lack of a decent latte in Searchlight, NV versus the comfortable civilities of San Francisco. Surely not.)

Asking me to view as an enemy someone who is pro Roe, pro gun control, pro equal rights for all Americans including GLBT, pro environment, with a lifetime 93% approval with ACLU, 96% with ADA and 3% approval from the American Conservative Union is, well, asking too much. I’m going to continue my progressive fellowship embrace of Harry and Nancy with my right arm while reaching out to you with my left. Peace and Love, dear heart.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

blunt. factual. hard news.

It would be very difficult to sell to anybody running one of the touchy-feely fluffy-smiley 'news organizations' in the US right now.
Otherwise we'd not be hearing about the pot pie recall on the blogs.

how about these:

See your doctor when you need to. Don't worry about the cost.

Get the US out of the civil war in Iraq.

Don't get the US into war with Iran.

Make schools work.

Use tax money wisely.

Put our people to work in good jobs.

Take care of our elderly well.

Take care of our children well.

Respect our planet -- earth, sea and sky.

Lots of these play well together; respecting the planet by using clean technology and walking or biking instead of driving lowers carbon footprints and, incidentally, obesity numbers. Home gardening makes healthy eating more affordable, and creates sensible, beneficial exercise. Getting to know your neighbors makes your home and family safer, and your neighborhood friendlier.

But the slogans are good, imnvho.
They're catchy.
They're memorable.
They don't make your eyes glaze over.
Oh, and they're hard to live up to because they're concrete.
You can't spin 'em much or obfuscate 'em easily.

(screw the insurance bit, I want people who don't have six figure incomes not to lose their houses over doctor bills)

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

loses her Constitution?

i know nancy is "our friend," but she's failing to defend that which matters most. i hope that's not too hard for you to understand.

/and i'm not being mean to you, just getting your soft lil brain back into shape after my absence. you know i love the fact that we disagree, but still speak to each other here. it's how i know you're in fact, not a troll, despite your many deluded positions. ;-)/

They decide the amount of time that gets parcelled out, so they say who the frontrunners are and establish the narrative unless crowds show up to drive coverage. Edwards, for example, would be even further behind, but they learned the Village will give Elizabeth airtime, and they work that to their advantage as much as they can.

You're right. The airwaves cannot be granted freemarketspace. They are ours and the Fairness Doctrine is desperately needed again. And forever. We don't have to require it for radio but it's vital for the America we went to the 21st century with, not the America we wish we had.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Sarah, dear, those are excellent goals, absolutely correct ways of living, no dispute from me, but they're just plain lousy as slogans with which to to sell the muddled middle. They don't sing. They're too long. (Three words, four max but they better be especially hot. "54-40 or Fight" worked for Polk and nobody then or now knew what it really meant, just sounded worthwhile and patriotic and brave, Hoo-Rah.) They don't have hooks in them, phrasing that sticks in the mind. They aren't inherently and quickly persuasive, you have to think about them and that's apparently too much to ask people to do when there are vital matters like Britney's nethers to worry about.

The Plutocrats have more money and more power, so we have to be smarter. We are smarter, aren't we? Please say we are; lie if you have to.

Fairness doctrine yep, for all common carrier public airways, too bad if the right doesn't like it, and public financing of campaigns and huge criminal penalties for bribery of public officials and real tough ethical standards rigorously enforced and all of that but while we're waiting for that Great Gettin'-Up Morning to arrive we could maybe try being more persuasive, learn to communicate with Jack and Jill Sixpack in ways that are actually effective. The Plutocrat cartel self-imploding may have worked again this time, but really we should find a way to keep them from coming back to power - just as a change of pace.

Submitted by lambert on

Since one thing we're all about is inventing language....

Interestingly, the Constitutional Question now seems to be part of mainstream discourse -- Dodd mainly, and even Steny Hoyer quoted Federalist 47, but it seems to be flavoring lots of issues now: the Mukasey nomination, for example. So, what, three or four years of constant pounding by this blog among others, and the tool gets sharp enough that people with real power (...) can pick it up and use it, which is the desired result.

Now for that pesky notion that corporations have the same rights as flesh and blood humans.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

I was, not wanting to assume the role of "driving" this discussion. Honestly, if I were any good at sloganeering I'd have made a fortune in advertising but I'm not so I asked for help. Suggesting I just do it my own damn self is less collegial a response than I'd hoped for.

Something along the lines of "Protect America Act" would be helpful, eh? Just sounds so good to say it. Who would be opposed to "Protecting" America? Hippie traitors with San Francisco values that's who, not real Mer-kun patriots.

In California we had a long-term problem of closed government meetings that seemed intractible until someone came up with the term "Sunshine" to describe laws to open them up for public scrutiny. Sunshine or Darkness, that's the kind of slogan choice that moves the masses.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

Follow the Light?

Because, seriously, "follow the wife" or "follow the son" or "follow 9-1-1" just don't work for me...

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Here is why I’m not in advertising. All suggestions gratefully accepted.

From Sarah’s list:

See your doctor when you need to. Don’t worry about the cost. Healthy America Act for universal single-payer health care, preceded by the Healthy Children Act to expand S-CHIP and the Healthy Babies Act guaranteeing universal access at zero out-of-pocket cost for perinatal health care, the single best health care dollar expenditure investment we could possibly make.

Get the US out of the civil war in Iraq. Destroy al-Quaida Act

Don’t get the US into war with Iran. Stop the Madness Act

Make schools work. Educate America Act

Use tax money wisely. Good Steward Act

Put our people to work in good jobs. Decent Jobs Act

Take care of our elderly well. Respect for Elders Act

Take care of our children well. No Child Goes Hungry Act providing two hot, balanced, nutritious meals a day for every public primary and secondary school child at no charge, serving food grown here in America by American farmers under the American Safe Food Act.

Respect our planet — earth, sea and sky. Save The Earth Act

And etc.

Come now, Lambert, skilled editor and wordsmith, and CD, you cunning linguist you, and all the creative writers here, help a brother out. Create us slogans that sing and compel, show me up for the inadequate creature that I am, make me weep with envy at your cleverness; I beg to be outdone.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm not especially good at slogans. I like "Good Steward... " as an idea.

I don't see "Medicare for All" which is what I keep trying to get us to use for "single payer."

I'd add the "Constitutional Restoration Act" to the progressive goodies, since Constitutional government is the foundation for all else on the list (modulo a "bread and circuses" model), but I'm foundering on the paradox of restoring the Constitution with a law.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Statutory law is all dependent on the Constitution. The purpose is to interpret in detail and define punishment. One could imagine, for instance;

Habeas Corpus Preservation Act

1. All persons, whether US citizens otherwise, in custody under or by color of the authority of the United States or committed for trial before some court thereof and whether held in custody within the territory of the United States or elsewhere, are entitled to petition the courts of the United States for a writ of habeas corpus as provided in Article One, Section Nine of the Constitution of the United States, subject to the exceptions therein.

2. Restricting any person from pursuing the rights enumerated in Section 1 of this act is a felony punishable by not less than five years imprisonment and a $50,000 fine.

GW will be facing what, 2500 years and loss of that tidy nest egg?

Submitted by lambert on

That's why it feels paradoxical to me to restore the Constitution with a law. It feels like a category mistake. There is Article I, Section 8 of course: "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers," and it would, indeed, be fun to work out the penalties for various bad acts.

Which will work if Bush and enough Republicans to carry the day have not, in fact, crossed the Rubicon. If they have not already gotten away with it. (Like a Macbeth where MacBeth retains the crown.)

On the other hand, perhaps the best way to restore the Constitution and the rule of law is to pretend that it still exists (as it does, in many many places) and works the same way for all (as it does not, in many places and especially in the Beltway).

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

In that nice new chair, because I agree with you.

OK, you can resume breathing now.

I absolutely concur that the right way to approach this is to act, assume and believe that all of the principles embodied in the Constitution are still in full effect, and that anything to the contrary done by Bush and his minions - or anyone else - is criminal. Don't give an inch on that, doesn't matter what double-secret black lines on white paper the criminal cabal generates, we simply don't recognize it as anything other than criminal behavior.

It is our collective loss of faith in the power of the Constitution that will cause its demise, not the acts of few usurpers. No pretense allowed, just pure adamant insistence and unrelenting defense. The battle will never end, my friend, they will circle around and come at us again and again, can’t get worn down and never ever ever give up an inch.

And yes the penalties, the necessity of imposing we will of course deeply regret.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

and we need to do what the Brits and Spaniards do and apply that same principal -- it is criminal behavior, nothing more, nothing less -- to terrorism.

Not less so because it is instigated by people named Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, DeLay, Hastert, McConnell than by people named bin Laden or Zarqawi. Equally so.
And because *those* jerks are already on our turf, we need to file the charges posthaste.