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A case study in how Democrats walk into corporate media's trap
They don't understand that media is not their friend, and that too many political reporters are driven by creating drama and getting clicks and ratings.
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The New York Times went into high drama yesterday with a story headlined, “Top Democrats Question Their Party’s Strategy as Midterm Worries Grow.”
The piece showcased bedwetting among some Democrats, but amplified it into a frenzy of anxiety that somehow proved the Democrats had no clear message in this election while Republicans effectively focused on issues that matter to people.
And it’s all complete nonsense.
I’m not sure why Democratic politicians and strategists speak to political reporters about their anxieties — and everyone in this election should have anxiety, including Republican leaders, because no one knows what’s going to happen. In fact, the GOP should have had it all in the bag months ago in a midterm after a president from the other party won the presidency. But they don’t because they have,“low quality” candidates, to quote anxiety-ridden Mitch McConnell. Not to mention because the Supreme Court they created took away a right to one’s body that people had for 50 years, and every day extremists threaten more violence and destruction of democracy.
There’s probably a bunch of reasons why Democrats give reporters fodder for their histrionic articles. Some Democratic strategists, polling analysts and pundits like to elevate themselves, and showboat — “Look at me, I’m right, I told them so!” — while there’s a bit more discipline on the GOP side. And some centrist Democrats will toss over the rest of the party just to get their message out in a tight race. Here’s Michigan Democratic House member Elisa Slotkin, in the piece:
“The truth is, Democrats have done a poor job of communicating our approach to the economy,” said Representative Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan who is in one of this year’s most competitive races. “I have no idea if I’m going to win my election — it’s going to be a nail biter. But if you can’t speak directly to people’s pocketbook and talk about our vision for the economy, you’re just having half a conversation.”
Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent pointed out how weird this sounds.
Whatever the reasons, Democrats don’t seem to understand that the corporate media is not their friend. It’s not their enemy, as Trump and the GOP casts it in demonizing the press. But it’s not their friend. On its best days it’s there to inform people, but mostly the corporate media is about creating drama and making money, getting clicks and ratings. Even if you are having anxiety and have criticism — and certainly there are criticisms to be made, as in every election — telling the media is just walking into a trap.
Case in point is the Times article, using the quotes to then craft a narrative, which is distilled in the first two graphs:
Top Democratic officials, lawmakers and strategists are openly second-guessing their party’s campaign pitch and tactics, reflecting a growing sense that Democrats have failed to coalesce around one effective message with enough time to stave off major losses in the House and possibly decisive defeats in the tightly contested Senate.
The criticisms by Democrats in the final days of the midterm elections signal mounting anxiety as Republicans hammer away with attacks over the economy and public safety. For weeks, Democrats have offered a scattershot case of their own, accusing their opponents of wanting to gut abortion rights, shred the social safety net and shake the foundations of American democracy.
So, Republicans have supposedly gotten “one effective” cohesive message while the Democrats are “scattershot.” Really? Yet even the Times notes that both have a few messages. And the GOP messaging — economy, inflation and what the NYT calls “public safety” — is either about issues that the president has no control over and which the GOP offer no plan on, or which are largely stagecraft, twisting realities.
The GOP messaging on crime is really about racism, for example, as they demonize Black candidates in ads or show Black criminals engaged in brutality. Crime is down in many of the places they’re running the ads, and crime overall is down from many years ago, having seen a spike during the first part of the pandemic, under Donald Trump. And as many have pointed out, rates of violent crime are higher in red states, run by GOP governors — and, as in the case of Oklahoma, by GOP mayors — than in blue states.
And crime rates are higher in most rural areas than in urban areas — most of which are governed by Republicans who allow a flood of guns onto the market and cut money to police.
So this is largely a created issue by the GOP — which the media then blows up — which, like immigration, they trot out during every election. And speaking of that, the Times didn’t throw in that issue of immigration, which is also really about racism — and the “invasion” rhetoric and the replacement theory — because it would have only underscored how the GOP is actually engaged in the “scattershot” approach: throwing out things from their old bag of tricks, and hoping they work during each election.
Meanwhile, as the Times reporters describe the GOP as hammering away on issues they seem to define as solid and not debatable, such as the economy and inflation, they say the Democrats’ “scattershot” approach involves “accusing their opponents of wanting to gut abortion rights, shred the social safety net and shake the foundations of American democracy.”
So wait, the Democrats are making some kind of unfounded “accusations” about the GOP “wanting” to gut abortion rights? Excuse me: Their handpicked extremist Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a federal abortion ban. There’s no debate about what the GOP is doing.
And the same goes for the claim that the Democrats are “accusing” the GOP of “wanting” to shred the social safety net” and “wanting” to “ shake the foundations of democracy.”
On the former, Senator Rick Scott put out a whole plan on sunsetting Social Security and Medicare every five years. Senator Ron Johnson one-upped him and said the programs should be reviewed and voted on every year. And then Kevin McCarthy let it be known he’ll hold the debt ceiling hostage unless GOP gets cuts to both programs and more if they win the House.
There’s nothing hypothetical or speculative about it. And Democrats are hitting on all of it because they must — in addition to talking about the economy (and what President Biden has done to stabilize it) and inflation (and what Biden and the Dems have done to keep pandemic- and war-fueled global inflation down and cut the cost of living for Americans via the Inflation Reduction Act on issues like health care and prescription drugs).
And on the latter — the foundations of democracy were shaken on January 6th and continue to be every single day, as leaders like Nancy Pelosi are under physical assault, targeted for assassination. Again, nothing hypothetical about it.
Democrats can do many things at once — and they must. And I think the Democrats have been forceful, nothing scattershot. Could they be better on this or that issue — like taking the offensive on crime and talking about mass shootings more? Yes. Could they have better, sharper messaging, and hit back harder? Yes. But to say that hitting on all these issues is hitting on too many things at once and is “scattershot” is completely wrong.
Here was the president today.
And tonight he’ll speak on the threat to democracy.
He and the Democrats need to hit it all, because it’s working. Again, the GOP should have had this locked down in the first mid-term after a Democratic president was elected. But abortion, the threat to democracy and the extremism of the GOP are keeping Democrats afloat and within striking distance of keeping the Senate and even the House.
What Democrats should not be doing, however, is engaging in public bedwetting, giving fodder to a media who’s only goal is to drive through a narrative that keeps people fretting and clicking and watching. As I’ve written here before, tune it all out and just vote.