Saturday, March 22, 2008

Interesting Insights Into Senator Obama and Media Mythology

by Norman Markowitz

There is an interesting article by Jim Vanderhei and Mike Allen on the website, The Politico. It is titled "The Story Behind the Story: The Clinton Myth." It isn't deep and it certainly isn't left. But it is smart the way some sports bookies, horse handicappers, and even stock brokers are smart. It's simple solid factual point is that Senator Barack Obama has built in reality a solid lead against Senator Hillary Clinton, that it would be very difficult for Clinton to win (maybe one out of ten, the quote one insider as saying) But the media, according to the authors, "have become partners with the Clinton campaign in pretending that the contest is really closer than it is."

Their arguments about why this is so are all insider conventional wisdom. The pundits were all predicting Clinton early and don't want to be embarrassed. The media "loves a close race---its more fun and its good for business. The authors call that reason subliminal, but there is nothing subliminal in it in that mass media is both about business and selling conventional wisdoms all of the time. They also mention the media's love of the Clintons' ability to overcome adversity, engage in Perils of Pauline escapes. Finally they look at the Clinton campaign's ability to set the media "narrative" in their press releases, which they attribute to their "talented" campaign staff.

Let me make as a good Marxist what I think are a few constructive criticisms of Vanderhei and Allen's useful article, criticisms. First, they are very right in their "doing the math" to show that Hillary Clinton would need to have new elections and large victories in Florida and Michigan to make this a really close race and that isn't going to happen Also Senator Obama has a lead of some 150 delegates and his lead is growing and likely to continue to grow.

Along with the significant Pennsylvania primary and its one hundred and fifty eight delegates (a primary which is garnering great attention because Clinton, with the support of virtually the entire Democratic establishment is in the lead) there is the upcoming battle for North Carolina's delegates, which is garnering very little attention, even though the state has 115 delegates and Obama is expected to do very well (based on my own readings I would estimate that even if Clinton does better than she is expected to do in Pennsylvania, and I don't think she will, the combined delegate distribution between Pennsylvania and North Carolin will be a net gain for Obama) Also, the other states whose delegates have not yet been chosen, Oregon, (52 Kentucky (51), Indiana, (72) West Virginia (28) South Dakota (15) Montana (16) and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (55) add up I think to a net gain for Obama.

Clinton's only chance would really be to win a large victory among the 794 "superdelegates," 261 of whom are uncommitted and 71 of whom have yet to be chosen (I didn't know that until I read the article ). Frankly, I was appalled after reading the article to see how badly the print and electronic media have been explaining the delegate count and contests to readers and viewers, which in lieu of analysis is what they are doing most of the time, and doing such a poor job).

But let me suggest to the authors that there are more important reasons to explain why most of the press and televisin have been perpetrating the myth that Clinton and Obama are locked in a close race that could go either way.

The talking heads on TV and the word processors in the press, and their staffs and especially editors and owners are part of a power structure that is afraid of change, afraid of an administration which might might respond to popular movements and take away some of their wealth and privilege in the public interest.

Clinton is the candidate they are are comfortable with and Obama isn't. A Clinton-McCain presidential race (I apologize to my friends and comrades who will take great umbrage at this statement) is a win win situation for the Master of the World on Wall Street, the Texas Oil Lords, and the Rupert Murdochs and Ted Turners of the mass media because me, my friends and comrades and a probable majority of the electorate will vote for a lesser of two evils middle of the road Democratic candidate who will go back to the old politics (which Franklin Roosevelt in an inspired moment once called "tweedle dumb and tweedle dumber") at the drop of a hat and that will be the best case scenario.

A people who survived the horrors of George W. Bush will be left with Hillary Clinton, just as an electorate which survived the horrors of Ronald Reagan and George Bush I was left with Bill Clinton. The right-wing will regroup and Hillary will sometimes fight them, sometimes appease them, and if they regain control of congress, collaborate with them. In essence they will begin to transform the Bush defeat into another victory for their class interests and the broad left and peoples movements will continue in a political wilderness, fighting defensive battles as band aides are put on a hemorrhaging economic and the working class takes, as it did under Hillary Clinton, takes less of beating but still a beating, than it took under George Bush just as under Bill Clinton it took less of a beating, but still still a beating, than it took under Ronald Reagan.

With Senator Obama, that probably won't happen. First, the victory will be much greater. Second, the president, with far fewer ties to the worst elements of the old Democratic Party politics, will bring new forces into government from the mass movements that are supporting him. Third, the president has shown that he has the ability to articulate a broad progressive vision and mobilize people around it.

Perhaps that is most telling example of mass media's anti-Obama outlook (which is both openly conservative and "closet conservative") is that the very skills that journalists and scholars point to in all of the "great presidents," the ability to go to the people and win them over with both ideology and policy (what distinguishes an Abraham Lincoln from a William McKinley, a Franklin Roosevelt from a Bill Clinton) Obama has and everyone knows he has.

The only reasonable conclusion should be that most of the "media," the high-priced talking heads and word processors, their editors and owners, don't want such a president and they are belittling and denying Senator Obama's remarkable achievements so far in the desire to turn their subjective wishes into objective reality.

Fortunately, I agree with Vanderhei and Allen that there isn't too good a chance that they and the Clinton campaign will succeed, especially if the more than 330 uncommitted "Super Delegates" come to the conclusion that robbing Senator Obama of the victory he is continuing to win among the people is the worst course of action for the Democratic Party and the the nation.


Peter Zerner said...

Once again, Norman, you have provided us with a very astute, Marxist analysis of the Democratic primaries and the battle for the nomination. I certainly agree that an Obama presidency would be much better for America's working people than Hillary, and that with the Clintons we'd be back with the same old old boy network, which the mainstream media loves because it is such an integral part of it. t. But do you think Obama has a better chance of beating McCain than Clinton? And do you think the extreme left wing rantings of Jeremiah Wright will continue to haunt Obama - in that he is supposed to have been aware of such views as a church member for 20 years. As one PA voter opined, he must of known about them, and should have chosen another church. I hope the voters here in NC will back Obama and that he will do better in PA than is bruited by the pollsters. Lastly, does anyone still think, apart from Fidel Castro, that a Clinton-Obama ticket is possible or a good thing, and that the unseasoned Barack might graciously demur to her gender and seniority, and gain 8 years of valuable experience as VP? Perhaps not.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Peter, I do think that Obama would make a stronger candidate than Clinton in terms of winning the election. The Republicans will make this the dirtiest campaign imaganable because they have to, given their situation, but Obama will be able to mobilize more people to fight back effectively, I think, than Clinton.
Also, it is my very strong impression that Clinton is disliked much more intensely by Republicans than Obama, and that they will be able to revive all of their old nonesense against her more effectively than against Obama. As for a Clinton-Obama ticket, I don't see it and given the nature of Clinton's campaign against Obama and the successful campaign that he has run, I really don't see it happening. As for the pastor and his comments, I really think Obama answered that very effectively in his speech for those who are willing to listen. We should remember that the Pastor was in his church while the Congress was filled with Republicans bellowing ultra-right assertions about everything and anything which make his comments seem very mild. Actually, Bill Clinton, whom Gingrich once called a "Stalinist"(my personal favorite looney tune comment of the period) has joined in by using the word patriotism to cover Hillary and McCain but not Obama. If she doesn't repudiate him and repudiate him hard for that Nixon-McCarthy moment, than it will further undermine whatever credibility she has left.

Norman Markowitz

Peter Zerner said...

It seems that this is yet another of Bill Clinton's studied stabs in the back. However, it was just vague enough to allow him to dismiss General McPeak's accusation of McCarthyism, but I take the General's point. Now we'll see likely the stress on the Ret. in the General's title, with all its aura of left wing "kookiness."

This comment and its rebuttal by the true patriotic forces in the Obama camp seems to be pretty much out of the news today, but I agree that Hillary needs to condemn it quickly. She'll probably just smirk and day, "I don't think that," as she did with Ferraro at the outset. But has the intended damage already been done? Bill surely said it with the intent of bringing into question Obama's patriotism, but now he'll just say "Aw shucks, that's not what I was gettin' at." But it's out there.
Bill Richardson criticized the General's description too. Spoken like a seasoned VP, I must say. So where's the "betrayal" here, as the egregious James Carville describes it vis-a-vis the Hispanic Bill and Hillary?

Harold said...

As far as the delegate count goes, lets keep in mind that Obama is also unlikely to garner enough delegates in the popular vote to clinch the nomination before the convention. It may not be that close now, but if it goes to the Convention, it could get very ugly for either candidate as they try to secure the superdelegates.

Anonymous said...

Both Peter and Harold have made good points. However, I think that the ugliness will continue to come from Clinton as it has through the campaign
And Clinton's position as of now with the "Superdelegates" is weakening, making it possible that key party leaders like Nancy Pelosi may decide that permitting Clinton to go into the convention and, perhaps, steal the nomination from Obama by power brokering and deal making(Obama unless there is a big reversal will have a clear lead in the delegate count) given the victories that he has won, is simply not worth it.
In any case, what progessives can do is what some are already doing; find out who the "Super Delegates" who are still uncommitted are, and make it clear that Obama is the better candidate, the candidate who has shown that he has by far the greatest mass support, and that having a few hundred appointed delegates take the nomination he has earned away from him will only help the Republicans in the general election.
What progessives here in New Jersey are also doing(and I imagine in other places) is to go to neighboring Pennsylvania to work in the Obama campaign, so as to keep Clinton from winning a victory that would strengthen her position with the uncommitted Super Delegates.

Norman Markowitz

Harold said...

Absolutely, Norman. Hillary has resorted to negative campaign tactics, while Obama has stuck to the issues. He's really done himself a favor in doing so as well, because voters are making it clear that they have no stomach for that old political game. Hillary has gotten away from it a bit, because she has realized it has done her only harm, but it may be too late. Obama has managed to catch up in the superdelegate count, which is another positive sign for his campaign.

Peter Zerner said...

I agree with Harold that Barack has risen above the fray, and in fact has always kept his composure and taken the moral high ground. The You Tube Jeremiah Wright - devoid of all the other good things the man has said and done - brought Obama to the edge of the precipice, but his patriotic speech in Philadelphia, harking back to the days of the Constitutional Convention in rhetorical power, was a deeply thoughtful and eloquent appraisal of where we stand over in this country more than 200 years later. It was also a speech about where we have to go in terms of overcoming the legacy of slavery and racism, along with the economic oppression of working people of all races and ethnic backgrounds in pluralistic, 21st century America. That racial and economic oppression has always been enforced by the shock troops of the the super rich mainly in the Grand Oil Party).

So let's not have any super wealthy super delegates bull their way to imposing an unpopular candidate (Hillary) on us. As Norman notes, Hillary is deeply and malevolently reviled by Republicans (and many Democrats, too). As the nominee, she would bring out the very worst in the media and have Rush Limbaugh and his ilk howling for blood. And, if she somehow managed to get elected, it would only mean more of the same old Democratic Central Committee stasis we had under her husband. It would also mean the Republicans would lose fewer seats in Congress, especially in the South, and that our political debate would be reduced to Blue Ribbon Committees on how to solve the Bear Stearns crisis. We need real change! And that change certainly lies with Barack Obama and the masses of people who support him. What is more, after his speech in Philadelphia, I see today that Obama is back ahead of Clinton again in the national polls. I think the American people are listening to what he has to say and heard the message from Constitution Center. We need real change in this country, not chump change. We need a new direction, not a Clinton Restoration. I also think we may now have a pro-labor veep who really understands the meaning of Si se Puede!