Back To School

A while back, a leftie friend asked me, “So if the media is so liberal and so all-powerful, how did Bush or any other Republican ever got elected?”

My answer (and I’m paraphrasing both sides of the conversation from memory) went something like this: Elections are different. Elections, especially presidential elections, are the unique times in our political lives when both sides have chances to go over the heads of the media and talk directly to the electorate.

This is not exactly new or innovative analysis, but it’s still accurate, and I’ll never cease being amazed at how many supposedly-smart people in the press forget or willfully disregard that fact of political life. Wrapped up in their own cocoon of elite consensus, the media never fails to be shocked when it learns that all the rubes out there beyond the screen… don’t agree with them.

And boy, did they get a reminder this week. Mama Palin not only made their lunch, she ate it for them, too.

It’s hard to imagine two candidates more tailor-made for diametrically opposed constituencies than Barack Obama and Sarah Palin. Urban sophisticate Obama is, as Mark Steyn perfectly put it, “the new black best friend they’d been waiting for all these years” for upscale white liberals–a class that includes practically all of the national press corps who spent the last week in a frenzy over Palin. Conversely, Palin the Alaksan hunter looks like Ted Nugent crossed with Margaret Thatcher and your best friend’s mom, with a powerful dose of homespun country-girl sass thrown in to boot. You couldn’t come up with a more diametrically-opposed pair if you tried.

Obama’s eat-your-tofu pretentiousness plays perfectly to a press corps that thinks its job is to educate the rubes, while Palin’s pretentious-as-dirt manner and freezer full of moose steaks couldn’t be more perfectly calibrated to rub an urban New Class reporter any more of the wrong way. Her happy warrior persona also strikes a sharp contrast with Michelle Obama’s angry whining about having to pay back her student loans.

The differences are stark, and the over-the-top reactions from the media are telling. To take one example, Joe Klein and his ilk see a “community organizer” as a valiant leader of the proletariat, but most people outside of government, academia or the press hear “community organizer” and think, “somebody who pesters the government for other people’s money.” For folks who aren’t marinated in elite liberal concensus, the first time they heard that Obama spent several years as a “community organizer,” most thought, “Why didn’t he get a real job?” I’m sure that never occurred to Klein, which is, of course, why he’s having one of his patented sniveling fits over Palin’s speech.

Roger Simon (the pretentious one who spent years at U.S. News, not the good one with the fedora) also went back to his room to pout after being criticized over the Palin feeding frenzy. I’ll start taking Simon seriously on this one just as soon as he can show me all his clips regarding the John Edwards scandal–and I mean the ones during the eight months when that story was an open but unreported secret among a press corps that swooned for Edwards long ago (or, alternately, as Ramesh Ponnuru wrote, “I for one am getting awfully bored by all those New York Times front-pagers on [Palin’s] son’s military service”). Simon also can’t understand why he’s being criticized–doesn’t everybody know that it’s the media’s job to expose evil–and that by definition, all conservatives are evil?

It’s been a very instructional week all around, and not a good one for the national press. Shame they won’t learn anything from it.

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9 Responses to “Back To School”

  1. tim maguire Says:

    I thought her community organizer line was great. I would have added one thing, though, because a mayor not only has responsibilities, they are also answerable to someone. Community organizers are neither.

    And I am a person idealistically sympathetic to liberal ideas and to community organizers and the causes they champion, but even I think of “community organizer” as a fake, made up job title.

  2. jimmy Says:

    Definition – “community organizer” – “somebody who pesters the government for other people’s money.” LMAO!

  3. jaymaster Says:

    Will,

    I agree with everything you said, except your final line: “ Shame they won’t learn anything from it.”

    I suspect many of them have already learned something. And I think we have seen the results already.

    I saw the CBS morning crew do a 180 this morning. It was all Palin, all the time. Obama was gone. And I saw a Wapo columnist tell bill O’Reilly that she was wrong, wrong, wrong, about Palin. I had to pinch myself to see if I was still awake.

    There are some very intelligent people in journalism. And they know their profession is in decline, challenged from many angles, and deserving of criticism.

    And many of them want money, respect, money, satisfaction, and money from their careers.

    And they can read the polls…

  4. McGehee Says:

    Jaymaster, it could be nothing more than the overnights coming back and showing that Sarah! has replaced O! as the Flavor of the Month. Media types embrace progressivism as long as it seems to be on the Cutting Edge — but when another parade gets out in front of it, those same media types will run like hell to get out in front of it so they can pretend they’re leading.

  5. cft999 Says:

    The media won’t learn. They may temporarily stall the number and ferocity of the attacks, but it won’t last long.

    I’ve never seen a profession absorb so much criticism and deny just about every last ounce of it. It’s staggering.

  6. jaymaster Says:

    They’re learning.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/08/business/media/08msnbc.html

  7. Distinctions | Cold Fury Says:

    […] Collier is on point and on target: It’s hard to imagine two candidates more tailor-made for diametrically opposed constituencies […]

  8. Casey Says:

    I think McGehee has the right of it; no mater their own personal ideology, journalists are merely members of the entertainment division of a media group. Some very few may still be genuine reporters, but not many.

    As such, their jobs depend on their companies ratings.

    On the other hand, I would disagree with Will’s (or his friend’s) original statement that the media is “all powerful.” Can’t recall who said it, but back in ’04 one of the talking heads confessed that the preference for Kerry gave him a 10%-15% edge. That’s not all powerful, but it’s a pretty big boost.

    The media can influence by silence as well. Recall how Giuliani shot himself in the foot by staying out of the intermediate primaries, banking on Florida. By then he had lost his lead because no one was talking about him. You have to keep your name in the spotlight, as Palin has just so dramatically illustrated.

    That wasn’t a deliberate silence by the media, as Rudy didn’t give them anything to talk about. Fred, on the other hand, pretty much told them to collectively take a flying leap, and they didn’t like that. The MSM response was not talking about much, if at all.

    Finally, y’all might want to not tread so heavily on community organizers. True, many of them are just shills for government handouts, but many more are just trying to help someone in their community. Recall that Palin’s shot was in reaction to Barry deliberately ignoring her governorial experience, and addressing her as only a small-town mayor. Her point was that organizers aren’t responsible for leading and directing even to the degree of a small-town mayor.

    A good comeback, but continually pushing it makes your side appear to be bashing all community activists, which is precisely the tack the Democrats are taking right now.

  9. Greg Q Says:

    The other thing they miss is that, were it not for the left-wing press, someone like Obama wouldn’t even be close to winning.

    If the MSM followed Obama as thoroughly as Tom Maguire does, he’d be at 35%.

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