August 16, 2012 Leave a comment
I’m teaching my Media and Public Opinion class this semester (intentionally timed for the presidential campaign) and one of the major themes is the actual “biases” journalists bring as opposed to the presumed ones. Among the biggest is a bias against covering policy and policy conflict in favor of covering the “game” of electoral politics. Policy is typically seen as little more than pieces on a chessboard than something of serious value in its own right. Short version: understanding policy is hard and policy is boring– let’s talk about the candidate’s haircuts and the mean things they said about each other. Jon Stewart captures this fabulously in a video I (sadly, due to WordPress) cannot embed. Ezra, though, hits the key points:
So far, they’ve mostly played out according to the same basic script: “We can finally have a serious conversation about the issues!”
I think Jon Stewart had the right response to this:
Because of Paul Ryan? As the media, couldn’t you have made it a serious discussion about the issues from the start? Or did a gypsy put a curse on you? ‘Hello, media! You will babble [nonsense] until a sad-eyed man from the North country is chosen by a Mormon!’
I’d simply add that whatever their faults, the two campaigns have been engaged in a serious conversation over the issues. As much as it’s been about anything, this election has focused on extremely disparate, consequential budget plans and what they’d mean for jobs, the deficit, etc. It’s also had its share of ridiculous gaffes and absurd attacks. But Romney is running on a platform that, though it lacks important details and relies on overly ambitious targets, is definitely a clear vision of the general direction he’d take the country. Obama’s platform is less radical, and much more detailed.
This serious debate about policy has been there all along if the media wanted it. They haven’t. And maybe they do for five minutes now, but don’t count on that lasting (or as Stewart suggests, not even now).