May 08, 2008


Sam Smith

It's easy to understand why Obama supporters and Democratic officials would like to see the primary battle brought to an end. Less clear is why the conventional media feels the same way. Under the rules of traditional journalism a fight is always better than its resolution. The former can last forever; the latter is stale news in a day or two.

But ever since the media became indentured servants of the powerful, this is no longer true. As soon as it seemed Obama would win the nomination, the media was out to show it recognized the fact and Clinton, like a bleeding, losing canine in a dog fight, was to be put to rest. Little things like the practice of democracy and the intrinsic purpose of even having a convention are placed aside out of respect for the presumptive winner.

You see this same creepy coddling of power in the way the media makes fun of third party candidates, worthy causes that lack major power, or singers who get kicked off American Idol. I always thought satire and ridicule were meant to be used against the powerful and not the weak, but that's far from the majority media view. Let's hope the political media doesn't start covering sports events. You'd end up paying for nine innings and only getting five.

Admittedly it is all getting pretty dull. But if you're going to insist that the Democrats' major concern is whether they are led by a black or a woman, there isn't much to talk about after a couple of months. The candidates approached this campaign like auto salesmen offering different models. So some voters said, "Hey, I like the black" or "I prefer the more feminine look" and after that, the conversation was pretty much over.

What they forgot was that other voters couldn't afford any car or had other matters on their mind, like health care, pensions, or home foreclosures. Lost in the shuffle was that both candidates claimed to want to get us out of Iraq but were vague about how and how much. One wanted to attack Pakistan while the other preferred obliterating Iran. Both favored programs that subsidized the health insurance industry by requiring voters to be its customers and neither offered any economic programs that were particularly encouraging.

A less evasive approach to real issues might have helped either candidate in the primaries and still could work in the general election. But that would mean reaching out beyond one's natural constituency and being more than just another brand. It would mean doing so more substantively than standing on the back of pickup trucks or eating cheese steak sandwiches with a slight frown on your face.

One of the basic problems the Democrats have is that much of their liberal constituency views with contempt much of the constituency the party needs to win. You don't have to own a rifle or go to church to reach those who do. But you do have to prove to others that you have the policies and the will to help them. And you have to care enough about those different from yourself to want to try.