I promise to get back to local and state issues soon, but I know most progressives here are heavily focused on tonight’s presidential debate, and I wanted to follow up on my Sunday post.
In that post, I essentially discussed the fictional and contrived nature of media spin in relation to the previous presidential debate, and I argued progressives needed to use social media and other means in an effort to combat formulaic, journalism tropes that end up defining political events like the one tonight.
Note the term “political events.” That’s what a presidential debate actually is because one thing that it isn’t is an actual debate in which participants have to produce real evidence to defend real arguments. In the last political event, the media consensus-based somewhat on a subjective interpretation of body language-was the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was the clear winner because President Barack Obama was “listless.”
Progressives throughout the nation accepted this interpretation without much protest and criticized the president for his lack of fighting spirit. Supposedly, Romney got a bounce in the polls because of his super amazing victory. This bounce was not specifically explained in any realistic manner in the sense that Romney actually said things with which people widely agreed and celebrated. The bounce was explained in vague terms, such as Romney “connected” with voters or voters could now envision him as president, the type of typical, nonsensical media spin that passes for profound insight in our culture these days.
Now the polls have settled. The president has regained some ground, as expected, and he carries a slight polling lead into the debate. What happens tonight matters a great deal, but it’s important for progressives to realize it’s the overall political event that matters, not the faux debate or what some commentator quickly concludes in a knee-jerk reaction seconds after it’s over. The political event has already started, in fact, and will continue days after the debate. What progressives must NOT do is concede the interpretation to the conservatives and wring their collective hands in despair because Rush Limbaugh or Wolf Blitzer thinks Romney “won” something that actually can’t be won or lost.
In my previous post, I talked about using social media to breathe honesty into the warped presidential debate process. Social media has limitations, true, but this is what CNN’s Candy Crowley said right after the last presidential debate, “Mitt Romney will be very pleased with this night. If you look at the Twitterverse, you’ll see a lot of Democrats who think the president seemed a little listless here.” (Note the term “listless,” which became the buzzword for the debate reaction.) Be advised. It doesn’t get clearer that social media and the Democrats’ public reactions matter a great deal.
Crowley, of course, will host tonight’s debate, and supposedly she’s under pressure to hold the candidates accountable to what they say, but that won’t happen because it can’t happen under the rules of the debate, which, again, really isn’t a debate. Obviously, Obama now has a license from the media to attack Romney, but don’t expect Romney will have to really account for his change in political positions, the lack of information he provides about those ever-changing positions, his failure to release a representative sampling of his tax returns, his tenure at Bain Capital or his aristocratic comments about how 47 percent of the American people are losers because they don’t pay federal income taxes. These issues may come up, but Crowley can only go so far in challenging answers because of “debate” rules. Besides, the current trend in corporate journalism is to treat obvious lies as just part of a supposed objective storyline.
So what’s probably going to happen is that after the debate-barring some major gaffe-most commentators at the major networks, except for Fox News, are going to remark that Obama showed more energy this time around. That’s a given, but it’s not enough in a close election. What’s probably more important is that Obama’s supporters need to show more energy this time around, too.