“Not long ago,” began Wednesday’s lead Los Angeles Times election piece by Doyle McManus and Peter Wallsten, “political strategists viewed Super Tuesday as a day that would likely crown the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees, a 24-state extravaganza that would bring the long primary campaign to an orderly conclusion. They were wrong.” That was pretty typical of the press coverage of what ABC had labeled a “showdown coast to coast” and, while it wasn’t wrong, it wasn’t quite right either.
After all, there already was a winner from this primary season (other than Senator McCain): the media, which had mustered its all, campaigned extravagantly coast to coast, and installed “eye-popping technological wizardry” like CNN’s MagicWall, “a huge monitor upon which newsman John King could manipulate maps and images with the poke of a finger as if handling an oversized iPhone.” The good news — for cable TV in particular, which has been getting splendid enough ratings off the “historic” primary season to generate a “ratings war” — is that it is now guaranteed to go on and on. Okay, it’s not “American Idol,” but by November 4th, it is likely to be the longest running continuous “reality show” on television, which isn’t bad either. As Ch! arlie McCollum of the San Jose Mercury has written: “Television executives have reacted to these [ratings] numbers the way television executives always do when ratings spike. They have ordered more ‘episodes,’ expanding the time devoted to the campaign.” In fact, media enthusiasm for the primary season, as I wrote recently, has reached “feeding frenzy” proportions.
It seems that Democratic voters have also ordered a few more “episodes” of our electoral reality show. Host of RadioNation on Air America Radio Laura Flanders has spent her time in recent years considering quite a different kind of enthusiasm than the media one, an enthusiasm that has slowly been rising from grassroots activism in and around the Democratic Party and whose spirit she’s caught in her book (just published in paperback), Blue Grit: Making Impossible, Improbable, Inspirational Political Change in America. Now, as the media revs up for the next set of primaries leading to the two super-Conventions and a superduper presidential election for “change” (which will put neither a Superman, nor a Superwoman in the White House), she suggests we take a breath and consider where change is really coming from and whether it will ever actua! lly arrive. Tom
A New Moment?
By Laura Flanders
The swirl of the primary season is intoxicating and the media love it. If the ratings records set by the recent political debates are any indication, the ongoing primary battle may yet save cable TV. “Super Tuesday” — the night that was supposed to wrap everything up — didn’t (for either party). Clearly, this extended nomination contest is getting people excited, but will that excitement translate into substantive change — for Democrats in particular? The past offers some hard-knocks lessons worth thinking about.
Give this long primary season credit: It has, at least, turned that overused word “change” from a bumper slogan pooh-poohed by all knowledgeable pundits into a fact-based phenomenon. In the closest thing the nation has seen to a countrywide primary, first term Senator Barack Obama overcame Hillary Clinton’s double-digit leads in major states and national polls to win a majority of states on February 5th and draw into a tight battle over the delegate count. The two candidates closed out the evening with their spinmeisters already talking up Beltway Tuesday — the next catch-phrase friendly multiple-primary day — while promising more debates. Now, their operatives are off to Ohio for a March 4th primary that everyone assumes will be crucial.
The chance to be seen and heard in more than just a handful of quirky early-primary states has already made a striking difference for the Illinois Senator, who was the clear underdog when he entered the race. “What was a whisper has turned into a chorus,” Obama told his hometown crowd in Chicago on Tuesday night.