Msnowe's Blog

and the winner is…………find out after the break…………………

Posted in Clinton, McCain, media, Obama, primaries, reality TV, super tuesday by m.snowe on February 6, 2008

So the super duper Tuesday is over, as long as you don’t count the states and congressional districts that don’t have their vote-counting acts together. Despite the well-intentioned, but ultimately overly optimistic hopes for an inspirational victory for somebody in the Democratic party, the only real surprise was Huckabee’s capture of a few Southern states, taking even more air out of Romney’s already slashed and deflated campaign tires. For two democratic candidates so obsessed with bringing about change, it would make sense that many are a little disappointed that no change has really resulted from a twenty-two state primary day. And all the media hype didn’t help either. Many, this blogger included, admit to being in raptures of delight at the prospect of Super Tuesday (I believe there were illusions to Christmas Eve made?). But going in, we knew that this would probably be a wash – it seems like both candidates, Obama and Clinton, do just enough to either stay in contention, or stay out of the definite lead. Clinton got NJ, NY and CA, keeping her delegate count up, but Obama pulled out a CT win, shaking the Clinton campaign up a bit. And the problem (or good thing) with the Democratic primaries is that many of them are not “winner take all” states, like many of the Republican primaries – so delegates are split, and when races are as close as they were yesterday, it means that most splits were pretty even, so the winner of a state might still end up with the same amount of delegates as the person who came in second.

The other problem with Tuesday was that no matter where you turned, NY news stations and public broadcasting media of all sorts were reporting the primaries, even before there were results to officially report. There were three-hour specials on cable and non-cable channels, and radio stations and news websites were aglow with fancy (or at the other side of the spectrum, incredibly low-tech) icons and graphics to try and make people understand the votes, or become incredibly confused. While reporting of yesterday’s primaries was vital, it was overdone. And similar to Giuliani’s campaign advisers reporting his popularity, media execs reports of the public’s true enthusiasm for Tuesday were widely exaggerated.

This brings up another slightly disturbing trend within the political campaigning and media coverage community. Let’s call it the “popularization of politics.” Let’s preamble this by first qualifying that politics should be open and understandable to all people. But now, politics is being increasingly absorbed into the media’s pop culture juggernaut, in a push to popularize politics with an appeal none-too-different from that of rag mags (a.k.a. tabloids). Politics is not being reported as it is – it is now being morphed into some popularized game where the people vote off candidates as if it was a game of Survivor or Project Runway. This type of reality television atmosphere is dispiriting to the intellectually-savvy political follower, quite frankly. You disagree this is happening in the mainstream, well-established media? Well, one look at the coverage on MSNBC, and in the middle of a serious news story on the GOP turnout, here is the poll that breaks between paragraph text: “Vote: Super Tuesday’s biggest loser?” To some, that might seem innocuous enough, but anyone with faint knowledge of the Tuesday-night NBC line up would recognize that unclever illusion to NBC’s show, which features obese people publicly humiliated on scales while the audience watches, in inappropriate mystification.

Super Tuesday, to the networks, was another way to use the best-known reality television hook- the extended pause before the big reveal. We’ve seen it on American Idol, Deal or No Deal, Dancing with the Stars, etc. The shtick is often framed like this: “…..well, and the winner is………….. [Or let’s open the case, or etc.] …………………we’ll find out, after the break!” which is followed by a strangely harmonious audience grown and cries of well-intentioned outrage. As much as the respective hosts like to play with their power to conceal and reveal results, the audience takes a semi-masochistic pleasure in being denied the information until after they are shown a few ads about erectile dysfunction or feminine itch cream. The networks broadcasting the Tuesday primary results were in their glory because they didn’t even have to manufacture the result withholding – it was all done for them by slow counting states and three different time zones. And for the Democratic results, we’re still watching the commercials, and probably will be right up until the Convention. The writer’s strike has made it easy to take the reality of political campaigns, and turn it into reality television which, anyone can assure you, is farther from actual reality than Bush’s promises of peace between Israel and Arabs, or Ann Coulter’s promise to endorse Clinton should McCain become the GOP nominee. Think about it – you’ve got the crazy contestant with possible drug abuse issues (Kucinich), the guy too old to be the evangelist virgin that he is (Huckabee), the rebel who says the weirdest things but still makes sense to you (Paul), the controlling bitch with a heart of gold (Clinton), the token black guy who overcomes his token status (Obama) and the old cranky spitfire (McCain). Could you imagine them all in the surreal political life? As McCain might start with, “my friends,”– the longer the production execs hold out against the writers, the more we’re in for an interesting, and almost completely media-generated, political narrative. Start your office pools now.

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