by canadian gal, Fri May 02, 2008 at 08:00:16 PM EDT
this diary is not about debating which candidate will or should win. simply its about the shameful failure of the fourth estate. i suspect as mydd readers, we can all agree that the media has played a large role in shaping presidential primaries. we saw it in 2000, 2004 (all to the detriment of the democratic party) and now again in 2008. in a stunning article about the media during this election primary, eric boehlert at mediamatters discusses "how journalists have behaved during this campaign." and he names names! as a former media student, i have said for a while now- and is now confirmed in this piece, that books will be written about the media's role in this democratic race.
history continues to unfold on many levels as the protracted democratic party primary race marches on, featuring the first woman and the first african-american with a real shot at winning the white house. here's another first: the press's unique push to get a competitive white house hopeful to drop out of the race. it's unprecedented.
looking back through modern u.s. campaigns, there's simply no media model for so many members of the press to try to drive a competitive candidate from the field while the primary season is still unfolding.
until this election cycle, journalists simply did not consider it to be their job to tell a contender when he or she should stop campaigning. that was always dictated by how much money the campaign still had in the bank, how many votes the candidate was still getting, and what very senior members of the candidate's own party were advising.
i realize the political debate surrounding the extended democratic campaign remains a hot one, with people holding passionate opinions about the delegate math involved and what the consequences for the democratic party could be. i'm not weighing in on that debate. i'm focusing on how journalists have behaved during this campaign.
and the fact is, the media's get-out-now push is unparalleled. strong second-place candidates such as ronald reagan (1976), ted kennedy, gary hart, jesse jackson, and jerry brown, all of whom campaigned through the entire primary season, and most of whom took their fights all the way to their party's nominating conventions, were never tagged by the press and told to go home.
"clinton is being held to a different standard than virtually any other candidate in history," wrote steven stark in the boston phoenix. "when clinton is simply doing what everyone else has always done, she's constantly attacked as an obsessed and crazed egomaniac, bent on self-aggrandizement at the expense of her party." that represented just a fraction of the often offensive get-out-now proclamations that have become a staple of this campaign.
no longer content to be observers of the campaign, journalists now see themselves as active players in the unfolding drama, and they show no hesitation trying to dictate the basics of the contest, like who should run and who should quit. it's as if journalists are auditioning for the role of the old party bosses.
it's a new brand of political commentary that leaves some veteran journalists perplexed. "the idea that it's your job to tell candidates when to get out, and really trying to control the whole process -- putting it in the hands of the journalists or the reporters or the columnists -- i find that to be new and different," haynes johnson told me last week. a pulitzer prize-winning journalist, johnson has covered more than a dozen presidential campaigns and is currently working on a book about the unfolding 2008 contest.
johnson says he was astonished to read some early calls in march from the media for clinton to get out of the race. he was stunned by "the pomposity and the arrogance of it."
indeed, a very strange leap has been made this year by lots of media commentators who argue against clinton's candidacy. rather than simply detailing her deficiencies and accentuating the strengths of her opponent, which political observers have done for generations, time and again we saw pundits take the unprecedented step of announcing not only that voters should not support clinton, but that she should also quit. she should stop competing.
with clinton, though, the press seems to have almost complete disregard for the 14 million voters who have backed her candidacy, as well as the idea that she is their representative in this race. instead, they treat her entire campaign as some sort of vanity exercise in which voters do not exist.
i highly recommend that anyone who cares about the democratic party (no matter who you support) go and read the full article and sincerely hope that these 'journalists' get taken to task for their behavior. for those that do not support HRC, maybe this article will shed some light on why so many of her supporters are so dismayed by what we are seeing unfold around us (omitting of course the state of the contest). but ultimately what we have all witnessed is pretty revealing and makes one wonder why there has been a different standard applied here with this candidate than with anyone else in history...