The alternate reality
October 24, 2012 Leave a comment
Tomasky on the different responses to the debate and why its important:
Factually, this isn’t remotely justified. At worst from Obama’s perspective, the thing is tied. As far as we know, looking at all the averages, on a state-by-state basis he’s ahead. If you assume seven or eight states in play and go through all the permutations, Obama often wins by taking just two or three of them. Yes, a lot hinges on Ohio. But he can win even without it (he needs a strong inside straight, but it’s possible). Romney absolutely cannot.
Conservatives know all this. But they’re constructing an opposite reality. This is at the heart of everything going on right now, I think. It’s what they can do that liberals can’t really do. They’ve always done it. “Romney is going to win” in 2012 isn’t so different from “We’ll be hailed as liberators” in 2003. They say something and try to make it so, and the media go for it time and time again.
This is what’s maddening to liberals about what Romney has done since the first debate. He’s constructed a new reality about himself and he’s gotten away with it, mostly. Specifically, it’s that he’s flip-flopped on all these things without the remotest hint of acknowledgement that the old positions even existed. Last night’s Afghanistan pirouette was stunning…
So today is the most crucial day of the campaign. Republicans are going to be filling journalists’ heads with the inevitability “reality”: a few poll results, a few morsels from the trail, and so on. A lot of the media will keep writing it that way, too.
And a really good piece from Alex McGillis about journalism’s ultimate bias– the desire for a good story:
We are the liberal media—hear us roar. We like Aaron Sorkin and gay marriage and invitations to the New Yorker’s bash on the roof of the W Hotel on the eve of the White House Correspondents Dinner. We have Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer’s cell phone on speed dial. If you water-boarded us, we’d admit to voting for pretty much every Democratic presidential candidate for the past two decades, with the possible exception of Al Gore in 2000 (he didn’t give us a clever nickname; the other guy did.)
But we are not driven by politics or ideology, really. Above all, we love a good story. Which, after all, is a very deeply ingrained yearning of the human race, isn’t it? …
We crave narrative. And let’s face it, the narrative of the 2012 campaign was a real dud. Incumbent president faces tough reelection environment but manages to hold onto slim, steady lead thanks to a just-enough recovery and a singularly uninspiring challenger…
But then: our mile-high salvation! Denver, O Denver. As the dynamic of the first debate began to register just a few minutes in—the crisp and hopped-up Romney against the wordy and listless president—we sang our relief across the Twitterverse. The true partisans among us, the Maddows and Sullivans, rent their garments, but most of us were barely able to suppress our glee: we had ourselves a story.
Meanwhile, Ed Kilgore is skeptical that this actually matters all that much:
All true, and yes, it is maddening. But does it actually matter right now?
As a deep skeptic about the importance of “momentum” in sports or in politics, I keep looking for evidence that the belief a candidate is ahead will add to his or her vote…
Maybe that’s so, but I wouldn’t be so sure about it. You can make the argument that an achingly close race in which Obama desperately needs a fantastic GOTV effort might be a “self-fulfillling prophecy” as well, which adds to the zeal and effectiveness of that effort. Yes, conservative “enthusiasm” has always depended on the perception that Mitt wasn’t a stone loser; one he crossed that threshold (one set by the polls rather than any perceived “moderation” or “Etch-a-Sketch Moment”), there was no doubt the GOP “base” would turn out impressively, given the hate frenzy they’ve been in towards Obama for four years now. Beyond that, though, it’s not clear all the spin matters—no matter how deeply annoying and dishonest it is for the MSM to buy it.
Personally, I’m torn. Ultimately, I do think media narratives have an actual impact on voter beliefs and therefore voter behavior. In fact, I would argue that the media narratives are the single most important feature on the campaigns– far more so than the events that actually underlie them. That said, I do think Tomasky probably goes a bit far. But I think Kilgore may be underselling it.