Political trends not necessarily the truth
Novembers are usually slow politically, particularly after the elections are over. The losers are analyzed in apocalyptic language and whole ideologies are declared dead as a result of one political race. Last week the Republican Party had last rites said over them, or so agreed much of the press. This week it is President Barack Obama the shaky roll out of the Affordable Care Act has, or so the pundits claim, doomed him to lame-duck status.
Well, even a blind pig comes up with an acorn now and then and there is some basis in truth to this overdrawn conclusion. Obama’s popularity is at just around 40 percent with his veracity and competence challenged. Moreover, 39 House Democrats voted with Republicans to alter “Obamacare,” as well that keeper of national rectitude The Washington Post has hammered the President for claiming no one would lose their healthcare. No doubt in their minds, Obama earned his worst week in Washington award.
Last weeks’ winner was Rand Paul and the Republican Tea Party, oh how fickle are events. Much of the media, both broadcast and print, are behaving like the old sports reporters of two generations ago. Everything is history in the making and every champion a dynasty. Sports Illustrated covers in the 1960’s and 1970’s were curses. No sooner you were the team of the decade, then you became a perennial loser. Reactive, not analytical and usually wrong.
Even before we’ve hit midterms, Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie are nominees anointed. In 1987 Gary Hart was riding high and in 2008 Rudy Guiliani got the nod in the press at least. Events shape administrations, not the other way around. Obama seems to sense this, thus explaining his claim, in the midst of a storm after all, if the press had been a guide his political career, much less his presidency, would not have taken off.
Instant history fed by fast thinking without reflection has contributed to an industry that celebrates controversy. Pundit after pundit, whether liberal or conservative, stokes a fire by not trying to explain but to inflame. It produces more heat than light, only increasing the profits of those preaching to the base. Thus a snapshot becomes a trend and “inevitability” of whatever comes as a result.
Certainly Richard Nixon in 1962 provides some evidence. After his defeat to Pat Brown for California governorship he was written off as politically finished. Howard K. Smith hosted a political obituary for the then-former vice-president. Even worse, he wheeled in Alger Hiss, whom Congressman Nixon helped send to prison for perjury. Yet in November 1968, Nixon won the presidency, on the back of Democratic mistakes.
So it has been with other politicians. Ronald Reagan, it was argued, was too Conservative extreme ever to be nominated not to mention elected. Both Paul and Obama are viable, but opinion can change that fast.
Certainly the “who’s on first” or scoreboard journalism is inadequate. This year has been filled with bad predictions. War in Korea, Bashir al Assad’s downfall and Obama’s comeuppance. None has completely happened. Stay tuned and stay critical.