Horse race coverage designed to make you hate all horses, plus racing

I almost took pity on my poor brain and didn’t write anything today, but then I decided that coddling my brain was the wrong approach. It needs a daily reminder of who’s in charge here. Take this, brain.

So Cory Booker said something sort of stupid on Sunday on Meet the Press. Go look it up if you want (you don’t) but the reaction to one sentence out of the about a hundred that he spoke on Sunday turned into a minor kerfuffle in the news cycle.

The president’s campaign was supposedly “very angry” with Booker for going “off message,” and by the end of Sunday he had “walked back” the rather harmless thing he said that morning. This prompted the GOP to launch a web ad that said, “We stand with Cory.” (They don’t.)

The liberal blogosphere (of which I still consider myself an observer, rather than a member, despite this being, well, a blog) was up in arms, with one diarist on The Daily Kos proclaiming that Cory Booker’s political career was over. Even the usually-more-sane Balloon-Juice had several posts on Booker’s gaffe, with John Cole linking Booker to Wall Street and suggesting that he is compromised as a Democrat.

This kind of reminds me of summer of 2007 when Joe Biden was talking about Barack Obama and said he is “bright, articulate, and clean.” Markos Moulitsas, of the aforementioned Daily Kos, said it was the end of Biden’s political career, and good riddance. Yeah, um, not so much. How did we all get to be such idiots that we (and I’m not excusing myself here) blow up these stupid little incidents into things that they are clearly not?

Booker expressed an opinion that most Democrats don’t agree with. So what? He did it in a particularly clumsy way (although not as cringe-inducing as what Biden said 5 years ago) that helped to foster a false equivalence between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Again, so what? That Democrats are upset about it beyond perhaps a face palm is stupid. That Republicans would try to turn it into a web ad is even stupider.

I’ve linked to this story before, and here I am doing it again, because once again we are all acting like idiots. In the first of five ways to spot a B.S. political story, the writer talks about gaffes, and asks why we pay so much attention to them.

The answer is that many (if not most) people don’t follow politics in order to find out who to vote for as part of their duty as citizens living in a democracy. They follow it purely as a form of entertainment. They’re like sports fans, rooting for their “team” to win.

And as you’re going to find out, virtually all political news coverage is written to appeal to those people. They’re the most rabid “consumers” of news, and their traffic is the most reliable, so the news is tailored to appeal to them.

I’m pretty sure this is why most people (outside of weirdos like me) hate politics. Because the talking heads take really important issues like taxation, and government policy, and foreign policy, and education and they completely ignore the actual facts and analysis and focus rather on whether a candidate’s surrogate may have said something slightly off-message during a round panel discussion.

I like Cory Booker. I have no idea if he’s a good mayor, because I don’t live in Newark, New Jersey and I hope I never will. I’ve heard he’s a good mayor, from both Republicans and Democrats, so I guess I believe that he probably is. I’ve heard him speak on a number of topics and I think I’ve agreed with him on just about everything. I even agree with what he was trying to say about private equity not being a bad thing, and maybe we should be careful about criticizing it too broadly. I think he said it in a particularly stupid way that opened up the president to criticism, but that it was no worse than what any Romney surrogate has been saying over the last few months. (Rachel Maddow did a good job of pointing this out last night.)

Regardless, even if he said something I truly disagree with, I wouldn’t necessarily put him in the category of politicians who I would never support. I don’t expect every politician that I support to agree with me on every issue. That’s ridiculous. And, regardless, Cory Booker saying something I disagree with has absolutely no bearing on my choice for president in November, and I’d hope that is true for every voter.

I generally believe in market-based approaches to things, but it’s become pretty obvious that our market-based media has produced news coverage of politics that is empty and completely fails to educate the public on the issues and why they should matter. It also seems designed to convince the general public that no matter who wins, things will likely remain the same.

It’s like tuning into watch the Kentucky Derby and the sports announcer starts the coverage by saying, “Let’s meet the horses, all of whom are nasty, brutish creatures, who will be ridden by cynical mercenary jockeys in a race, of which the outcome will, let’s face it folks, have absolutely no effect whatsoever on your sorry lives unless you were mathematically challenged enough to wager your hard-earned money on a sport which is quite likely fixed.”

That’s actually kind of true about horse racing, but they would never ever say it. It’s not true about politics, but it’s all they ever imply.

Author: Wiesman

Husband, father, video game developer, liberal, and perpetual Underdog.


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