Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

John Edwards in 2008 -- 3

An Agenda For American Women

Building One America means ensuring that women can make choices in their lives with dignity and can participate in our society fully, as equals. The reality of women's lives today is still something far less. They are expected to do more, and they receive less. That's not right." -- John Edwards [go here for program in full]

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The secret that isn’t a secret to anyone paying attention is out. The press has done a miserable job of covering the John Edwards campaign.

This poor job isn't limited to the lack of coverage, a fault which is easily verifiable by doing simple searches and counts.

[You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to note how, from FOX’s “fair and balanced” clap-trap to the august New York Times, the media have shut out and/or mindlessly diminished the John Edwards message. The day after the Iowa primaries, I searched the Time's coverage of the top three Democratic finishers. (You remember that primary, the media resources devoted to it even outmatched Britney coverage for the week. Edwards finished 2d in an eight candidate race.) Here’s the tally: 32 Obama references, 31 Clinton, and 19 Edwards. A closer analysis shows the Obama and Clinton references to often be parts of substantial stories, Edwards' are brief mentions, usually in a context having little to do with his voter appeal, ideas or campaign strategy or prospects.]
More importantly, throughout the campaign and up until today, Edwards’ programs (easily available and detailed on his web site [go here] and forthrightly presented on the campaign trail), when covered, end up being summarily dismissed under the meaningless umbrella term “populist.”

“Populist”? How helpful is that? -- Are we talking William Jennings Bryan or Tom Watson populist, George Wallace or Ross Perot populist? Or are we to assume that anyone not easily classified within the narrow confines of conventional, moneyed interest politics is, well, a populist? I can’t believe journalists and editors miss the problems with this label, the glaring contradictions following from its too easy application. Currently, this hardening of the analytical arteries of the press and pundits leads to, Ye Gads, Mike Huckabee, “Populist”; John Edwards, “Populist”!

Failure to dig into what Edwards stands for and proposes to do if elected leaves voters who do not have the privilege of hearing Edwards on the crimes and issues of Big Pharma/ Oil/ Insurance, fair taxation, poverty, and his candid discussion of his Iraq mistake-contrition-expiation, are left thinking John Edwards is about haircuts, a huge house and a lucrative career in court rooms.

So the press has sadly failed the electorate. The media’s lazy approach to the campaign is to create a “narrative” in their minds as to what and who the election is about. For reasons of drama, entertainment value, the Democratic party narrative is Clinton vs. Obama. Edwards, despite his second place finish in Iowa, is still shoved into a cul de sac labled “populist,” not part of the controlling narrative that controls the journalists and the stories they deliver. This is stale stuff. This is canned prediction masquerading as discovery and insight. And this is the dirty little secret of journalistic incompetence that may finally be emerging into the light of a political morning. Though probably too late for Edwards.

If Edwards finishes third in N. H. today, look for more of the same from the press, however many votes he receives. Should he finish second, there may be some nervous shuffling of feet and quizzical probes by the previously dormant fourth estate covering Edwards. Only a surprise win by Edwards against the tremendous obstacles set up by the media would finally turn the ocean liner of conventional wisdom and conventional “narratives” around.

John Edwards is vowing to stay in the race “all the way to the White House.” Right now I’d be elated if he just stays in until the press fully covers his needed and iconoclastic programs. Persistence prevailing over paralysis. When the well-kept secret of the timbre of the “Change For Us For a Change” Edwards is fomenting gets out to the voting public, the Obama and Clinton campaigns will be forced to move, as they have already, even closer to Edwards’ positions.

Such moves should (but won’t) embarrass the press. But it will be good for the candidates, turn the Democratic Party democratic, and finally prove that political campaigns can be more than attack ads and sound bites. The story the press is beating to death has been running in the same grooves far too long.

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