Monday, October 22, 2012

Is it really that close?

All this week (really since the last debate), we've been hearing from every corner of the media that this has become a horse race. Recall that, a month ago, Obama had a commanding lead; two weeks ago, Romney had a commanding lead; and now we're back to "it's anyones guess." Is it really, though?

A lot of people who really pay attention to what's going on, instead of just feeding into the media hype of the moment, seem to think that there is a less-than-honest backdrop to polls that show the two candidates in a virtual tie for the nation. On the one hand, there are those who argue that these tight races make for better ratings in the media: more people show up to watch a horse race than a landslide. This assertion is very plausible, and is certainly backed up by historical evidence. We've seen, time and time again, how media can change the course of events they choose to cover in how they cover them. They covered the debates, declared winners and focused their attention on very specific details of the exchanges, thereby creating a vision of this race that suits their narrative and their ratings.

Another, perhaps more conspiratorial view, is that the media is deliberately attempting to make the race look close in order to excite more people into voting. This happens to be a view largely held on the Right, by folks who already believe in left-wing media bias and fabrication of poll numbers and election results. They also happen to harbor the notion that too many people are voting who shouldn't, and so support voter ID laws. The idea that media is trying to make this look like a close race to try and get more people out to vote (and notice they all seem to think it will only excite left-leaning voters? Isn't Fox News and the rest of the conservative media doing the same thing?) fits very well into this view.

Whatever the reason, I wish it would stop. We're not getting straight answers, and it's starting to get ridiculous. For example, Huffington Post has been publishing articles since last Wednesday about how close the race is getting, and how Romney is leading in one poll, but Obama leads in another, all while their on-site poll shows Obama with an 80 point delegate lead over Romney. Even if Huffington Post is part of the liberal media, shouldn't they at least be consistent with their message?

The hard truth is that we can't rely on national polls, stats, and figures. After tonight's debate, the two candidates will have to rely on their rallies, field offices, and millions of donated dollars to reach the few people in America that haven't made up their minds (supposedly).

And that's the other thing, if I may say so. I noticed how conveniently each media outlet seemed to have "undecided voters" on their panels that ended up agreeing with the viewpoint of that station. FOX News was the most blatant example of this, though other stations were certainly culpable.

So, media just needs to lay off at this point. Cover the major events like the debate, cover the issues at hand, and possibly some gaffes and policy stances. But not this 24/7 shit-show. If media outlets continue to insist on covering these things, they should at least have the decency to do them justice. For example, I'm more interested in what one candidate says than how they say it. If you are basing outcomes on the sheer volume of bullshit one can spew, than Romney won the first debate. If you're looking at substance, it was Obama, even with a lackluster public performance. But things like that don't seem to make into our airwaves. Instead, victory is based on who looked nice, who smiled the most, and who got upset. That's not analysis, at least in a sense that matters. Until our media can become part of an adult discussion on the issues that face us, they're about as useless as a Mitt Romney tax return.

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