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About campaigns...
Posted by: Jon Henke on Monday, December 11, 2006

Raising Kaine, which operated as a de facto campaign blog for Jim Webb during the recent election, has an understandable, if misguided, take on the recent Virginia campaign. In response to George Allen's acknowledgment that his "campaign didn't focus enough on issues and his record...", an RK blogger writes...
Instead of actually focusing on ANYTHING that remotely mattered to ANYONE, the campaign focused on attacking fictional books Jim Webb wrote, and attacking "trackers" hired by the Webb campaign. They even sponsored a news conference where about five women ATTACKED JIM WEBB and something he wrote 20 years ago.
I think this is a misunderstanding of both the Allen campaign and of the nature of the campaign process.

It's simply incorrect to say that the Allen campaign didn't focus on "on anything that remotely mattered to anyone". In fact, the campaign constantly talked about energy issues, taxes, education and George Allen's record. But most voters didn't hear what the campaign said about those issues, did they? Why not?

Well, there's the rub.

A campaign only gets credit for the messages it can push into the mainstream media. As I pointed out during the campaign, at one point, the Washington Post and WashingtonPost.com had done 156 stories involving 'macaca' in the previous 60 days...versus only 1 story that even mentioned Senator Allen's major energy policy proposal. Senator Allen spent a lot of time touring the Commonwealth to talk about his policies and his record, but you'd be hard-pressed to find much media coverage of those issues...especially from the Washington Post.

Oh, sure, the Washington Post did do one lengthy piece on George Allen — 1,302 words mostly devoted to George Allen's wardrobe. In fact, Washington Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell acknowledged this...
Allen supporters think he can't catch a break; I sympathize. The macaca coverage went on too long, and a profile of Allen was relentlessly negative without balancing coverage of what made him a popular governor and senator.
If you want to complain about insufficient focus on real issues, don't criticize the campaign: criticize the media.

And that brings me to the campaign process. Certainly, campaigns do criticize their opponent — and, to some extent, they should. Contrast is legitimate. But there's another issue at play, and Virginia Blogger Shaun Kenney explained it perfectly...
Positive news doesn't get printed, folks. If anyone here can mention (without researching) the last good thing Allen did that a major news outlet printed above-the-fold pre-election season, I'll eat my hat. The MSM is playing to the same appetites you are as a blogger who wants to be read. To one degree or another, we are all gnostics. The MSM plays to those appetites, bloggers blog because of those appetites, and readers read because they want to know the hidden information the common person may not know. Everyone wants to tell the positive story, but no one wants to tell the negative story of their own volition — that's why we have investigative reporters, watch murders and robberies on the 11pm news, and read about "Lost Soldiers" rather than how the man went through the routines of life.

These are your appetites as a human being that are being catered to. MSM editors (and a few bloggers) may claim to hate it, but read what's above the fold or blogged. Murders, theft, terrorism, nukes, and yes negative commentary on negative campaigning.

The irony should kill all of us.
If the media will only cover negative campaigning — and for the Allen campaign, that was generally true — then what else can a campaign do? The media may criticize it...but that media is the reason it exists. Don't point to the negative 10% of the campaign message and claim that the positive 90% didn't exist. Look at the media, and ask them why they are only interested in the negative 10%.
 
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...the Washington Post and WashingtonPost.com had done 156 stories involving ’macaca’ in the previous 60 days...versus only 1 story that even mentioned Senator Allen’s major energy policy proposal.
Suffice to say, loose lips sink ships. The whole "macaca" business was Allen’s "I actually voted for [it] before I voted against it" moment. That one moment of abandon took on a life of its own (the media love scandal, afterall) and defined the whole campaign.

Candidates take note; when you aspire to higher office the media and pundits will hold you to excruciatingly high standards. Deal with it or don’t bother playing!
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
Candidates take note; when you aspire to higher office the media and pundits will hold you to excruciatingly high standards. Deal with it or don’t bother playing!
And that’s a big part of the problem with our system today. As Jon pointed out, the media relentlessly focuses on scandalous non-issues because of our own schadenfreude. We LOVE hearing about which high profile public figure is going to jail for xyz or how so-and-so is cheating on his/her spouse. We HATE hearing about proposed revisions of the IRS’s Byzantine tax code or how we plan to implement a policy reducing our dependence on non-renewable energy. It’s human nature, but the MSM (and bloggers, to a certain extent) only strengthen our worst aspects by focusing on them so relentlessly.

It’s far, far past the time that we demand a better system, but other than building a better human being, I’ve no idea where to start. Jon?
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: www.asecondhandconjecture.com
Candidates take note; when you aspire to higher office the media and pundits will hold you to excruciatingly high standards. Deal with it or don’t bother playing!
And that’s a big part of the problem with our system today...
I am not sure this is a bad thing, necessarily. If a candidate cannot handle the pressure cooker of the media/punditocracy/blogosphere spotlight during the campaign how can we expect him to handle the pressure he will be under from lobbyists, special interests or foreign governments? Much of the latter will be outright hostile a-la Chavez el-loco and his Satan and sulfur utterances.

The media gauntlet is the best way to sieve out the mental and emotional weaklings in this regard. Allen’s fall from grace is but the latest example.
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
The media won’t do that until they come under pressure to do that. It is exactly that reason why I’m starting the Pressure The Post campaign.

http://virginiavirtucon.wordpress.com/pressure-the-post/

The only way to make them change is to hit them where it hurts the most — their bottom line.
 
Written By: Riley, Not O’Reilly
URL: http://virginiavirtucon.wordpress.com/pressure-the-post/
Suffice to say, loose lips sink ships. The whole "macaca" business was Allen’s "I actually voted for [it] before I voted against it" moment. That one moment of abandon took on a life of its own (the media love scandal, afterall) and defined the whole campaign
One moment of abandon? Hardly. Macaca did not define Allen, it crystalized him.

That was why the media focused on it. That’s why the story had legs. It symbolized what every sane person suspected of Allen - he is a racist.

And who really cares what else a racist has to say? Who cares about his position on energy issues. On trade issues. On any policy issue, for that matter. They just don’t matter. Because, as I would hope, if he is a racist, no one should vote for him, even if he is a policy genius.

And "genius" is probably the last word anyone would use to describe Allen.

Of course the media focused on it. As well they should have.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
MK Ultra,

Can you think of another Senator that has said racial things and keeps getting elected...hint he’s also from one of the Virginias...

Let me know when the media runs that story for 90 days.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Beat me to it, Harun.
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: www.asecondhandconjecture.com
If a candidate cannot handle the pressure cooker of the media/punditocracy/blogosphere spotlight during the campaign how can we expect him to handle the pressure he will be under from lobbyists, special interests or foreign governments?
I disagree.
The media gauntlet is the best way to sieve out the mental and emotional weaklings in this regard.
So, basically, let’s beat the tar out of the candidates and whomever is still standing at the end, gets elected. Why don’t we just have a boxing match, or American Gladiators? Wait, the media has already provided that.

This is precisely why policy never really gets discussed in campaigns. It’s all about who can give the other guy the biggest black-eye. Talk about the dumbing-down of America. The only elected official who should be facing foreign governments in pressure situations is the President. I suspect that during the marathon Presidential election cycle we will certainly filter out the weaker candidates, however I see no purpose to doing this with Congress. Congresspeople should be elected based on their character, their experience, and their ideas, not their ability to stand in front of cameras for an hour or two gettting sniped. I suspect that this is exactly why we have the Congress that we have today. No reasonable policy debates, just lots and lots of hit pieces, sniping, and full-on MSM drive-bys against whichever party is out of favor with the person doing the shooting. This is no way to run a government. Until Americans get serious about politics, we’ll keep electing deeply unserious politicians (like pretty much the entire Congress).
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: www.asecondhandconjecture.com
So, basically, let’s beat the tar out of the candidates and whomever is still standing at the end, gets elected.
Not exactly. More like when you aim for higher visibility there are many who will be gunning for you. I am not arguing whether or not this should be the case; it just is. That’s all!

You are right, however, that our system keeps churning out the wrong sort of leaders. However, is that necessarily the result of the media gauntlet? Perhaps the media’s stances and the public’s acquiescence is not so much the result of a manipulative and biased media as much as a passive, disengaged public. Perhaps if more of our fellow citizens woke up and decided to actually give a flying flip for a change things would be different. I do not blame the media so much as I blame Joe Citizen’s desire to just live his own life and leave the big stuff up to "them". We all do this to a certain extent; you cannot read 17 different news outlets front to back every day and have time left for the rest of life.

Meanwhile, skewering candidates who make "macaca"esque stupid remarks just makes for great entertainment.
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
Perhaps the media’s stances and the public’s acquiescence is not so much the result of a manipulative and biased media as much as a passive, disengaged public.
Partially right, but you answer the other part of the theory here:
Meanwhile, skewering candidates who make "macaca"esque stupid remarks just makes for great entertainment.
As I said, shadenfreude. This just seems to be built into the human psychological make-up, so I’m not sure how to change it, but I do know that it does have to be changed in order to stop our politicians continuing devolution.
 
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: www.asecondhandconjecture.com

 
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