Sunday, May 11, 2008

Which of your values do the candidates share?

In his column in today's New York Times Frank Rich, purporting to explain what has been happening in the race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, had this to say:

Hillary Clinton's attempt to impersonate a Nascar-lovin', gun-totin', economist-bashin' populist went bust: Asked which candidate most "shares your values," voters in both North Carolina and Indiana exit polls opted instead for the elite and condescending arugula-eater.

If you are anything like me and most people I know when asked which candidate most shares your values you would not be thinking about Nascar, guns, economists, arugula, Rev. Wright, Hillary Clinton's laugh or any of the other things the media like to talk about in this race. You would say Barack Obama most shares your values because he thinks it was a mistake to authorize President Bush to invade and occupy Iraq. Whenever the media suggest (as they constantly do) that we might consider some other factor (such as the slight differences between Obama's and Clinton's health care plans or Hillary's gender, for example) the idea that the war should be ignored strikes me as weird as if Mrs. Lincoln was asked, "other than that how did you like the play?"

I understand that the campaigns are now focused on wooing over undecided voters, as they should be. Undecided voters are not as concerned about the war; if they felt strongly about the war they would not be undecided. That is why the war in not the only issue the Obama campaign talks about or emphasizes in their advertising campaigns. But Barack Obama talks about the war a lot if you listen to him directly, rather than filtered through the media.

It is as if the Main-Steam Media were trying to create the impression, against all evidence to the contrary, that no one cares about the war. Think about the effect of hearing some idea endlessly repeated. If left unchallenged it can become conventional wisdom. That is what Geico Insurance is trying to do with the idea that Geico Insurance can save you money on your car insurance. They are spending millions of dollars on advertising with the sole purpose of driving that idea into your head in the absence of any evidence that it is true. (If Geico really was the lowest priced insurance they would not have to spend a dime convincing you of that. You would discover that on your own when you compared prices.) It is as if the media were trying to do the same thing with the idea that no one cares about the war.

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