Sunday, February 07, 2016

The New Hampshire primary and the "Meet the Press" weekly hack-a-thon

I forced myself to watch Meet the Press this morning. (Transcript: Meet the Press - February 7, 2016)

There was plenty of horserace speculation about the New Hampshire primary, of course. Chuck Todd and his panel of pundits which included Chris Matthews, Andrea Mitchell (Mrs. Alan Greenspan), the conservative radio hack Hugh Hewitt, and Hallie Jackson. They were particular excited about the fact that in Saturday night's horror show Republican debate Marco Rubio repeated himself. A politician repeated himself! That's surely never happened before in the history of humanity!!

Marco's warmongering and general rightwing politics didn't occasion much comment. They did play a clip of Jeb! BUSH challenging Trump over an eminent domain case. But the panel focused on the theater criticism, not on anything about the substance of the policy.

But, hey, it's Meet the Press. It's not like anyone would expect what we quaintly call "journalism" from it.

I am a bit disappointed to see Harold Meyerson also focus on the theater criticism in Rubio’s a Robot! And Other Republican Revelations The American Prospect 02/07/20169.

I shouldn't be a purist, though. The "horserace" is important, obviously. The problem is not that journalists talk about it. The problem is they obsess about it to the point where policy gets sometimes excluded, as Todd's panel discussion of the Republican debate on MTP illustrates.

And I certainly wouldn't suggest that Meyerson is anywhere in the same category as professional hacks like Chuck Todd and Hugh Hewitt. He certainly gives a better snapshot of the political lineup than the MTP group did:

With Rubio falling back in the pack and Kasich, Bush, and Christie each having a good evening, it now looks likely that New Hampshire won’t winnow the establishment lane in Tuesday’s election. And the longer that lane goes un-winnowed, the longer Trump—winning 30 or even 25 percent in state after state—can still claim a plurality rather than running a distant second to the establishment’s consensus candidate. The longer it takes for that candidate to emerge—something that won’t happen until three of the four establishment candidates bow out—the closer Trump comes to winning the nomination.

In that sense, it may have been even a better night for Democrats than it was for Trump. Rubio has been the cloud on the Democrats’ horizon, the one candidate conservative enough to win the nomination but just presentable enough, perhaps, to win the general election. The center of the Republican Party has now moved too far right for Bush, Christie, or Kasich to emerge its nominee, though any of them would be stronger, and Kasich probably far stronger, in a matchup against Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. (Kasich is the one candidate who does not seem to loathe people outside the Republican orbit, dooming his chances within the party itself.) If Rubio cannot recover, the likely nominee is either Trump or Cruz, whose prospects, the Democrats rightly believe, are dim.
The MTP crowd then took up the Democratic race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders:


I want to start this conversation on a larger topic Chris, that you and I were talking about off camera yesterday.. And what's fascinating about this democratic race it is the first one in my lifetime that's been a race to the left. We haven't seen that in a long time. It used to be democratic presidential primary was about the most electable liberal who could hug the middle. And that's still a campaign [C]linton wanted to run but that's not what she has to now.


And it's very hard for her to fight him because of this elastic use of the term progressive. Progressive covered Teddy Roosevelt a moderate activist republican. It covered in Wisconsin. Then in '48 it carried, it kind of takes a very hard left even pro Soviet Henry Wallace breaking in with Truman on that saying the Cold War was our fault. I don't think he means that, but he can come out and get the furthest left voter, just like Cruz can get the furthest right voter and hug that rail.

Now Hillary will surprise me as to why she wants to go chasing after him. Why doesn't she draw the line, why didn't she do it three months ago. I'm not a socialist, I don't hate socialist [sic] but [I]'m not one. Here's why, fundamentally I do believe in the free market free enterprise. That's how our systems work, that's how we became the greatest country in the world because of that freedom. I don't want want the government to try to run everything. [my emphasis]
That's even-the-liberal Chris Matthews sounding like a cheap Bircher redbaiter.

The obvious reason Clinton has to step carefully and let her campaign's ratf*ckers and willing reporters like Matthews do this kind of dirty work is her ambiguous attack on Sanders: I'm more progressive that he is, but he's a commie. For many Democrat voters, it risks sounds desperate and sleazy. And if she's more progressive than the commie, well, the Republican will make sure she feels the full force of the blowback from that accusation in the general election.

Chuck interviewed Clinton at the beginning of the show. And she seemed to me to be stepping on her own points.

Mrs. Greenspan sounded pretty flustered:

The party has moved. This reminds me of 1972 actually. She has lost the base. And she's lost the women. And that is what is so stunning here in New Hampshire. And they are really, they can't figure out how to combat that. So to try to attract young women whom she lost by such extraordinary numbers in Iowa and in the polling so far here, she brings in women senators, who by definition are part of the establishment, and there's no female Marco Rubio.
No, it doesn't make jack for sense to me, either.

But it does remind me that in terms of their general outlook, the Republicans are in many ways stuck in 1969, worried that scary black people and drugged-out hippies are going to form rampaging mobs to invade the suburbs and wreck horror on all the nice white people. Many Democrats are still stuck in 1972 when in their minds a dangerous leftwinger, Methodist minister and former World War II bomber pilot George McGovern scared too many nice white folks away from the Party and they can never, never, never repeat that mistake. And in the latter view, nothing has changed: Democrats still have to carry former Confederate states to win a Presidential contest, California is still a Republican state in Presidential elections, the Republican Party still has liberal and moderate factions, and Republicans are running on similar issues as Nixon did in 1972: support of wage-and-price controls, making people with China, making peace and nuclear arms agreements with the Soviet Union, peace in Vietnam. Mrs. Greenspan seems to be operating on those "1972" assumptions, as well.

Poor Hallie doesn't seem to realize her job is to spew conventional wisdom, as this exchange shows:


No and what's interesting to me, though, when you talk about Bernie Sanders that he has among a different kind of electorate. I spoke with a woman yesterday she's been a registered Republican in New Hampshire for 15 years. She is going to primary for Jeb Bush and then switch her registration so she can vote for Bernie Sanders. She is out there working and volunteering and trying to sort of rally people around Sanders because of what he's tapping into that speaks to something a little more broad than just the typical party lines.


But Hugh, both parties are racing to their bases. Nobody's thinking about the general election.


I love what Andrea just said. They're going 1972 I'm all for that from my perspective, way to go.
Hallie suggested that Bernie might have broader appeal than the silly college kids of the conventional wisdom. But Chuck quite snapped the conversation back onto safely hack territory. And Mrs. Greenspan brought up Benghazi! Benghazi!! BENGHAZI!!!

With a national press corps like this, it's amazing that our democracy functions at all.

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