By this time, I expected John McCain to have left Barack Obama choking in the dust in the US Presidential election campaign.
I expected that, as an untried candidate, the odds were good that Obama by now would have been brought low by either gaffes or unfortunate discoveries about his past. And the press, having glorified him unreasonably in the past, would then, by now, have turned on him.
I was right about embarassing things turning up in his past: Rev. Wright, Tony Rezko, ACORN, the New Party, old quotes about wanting Supreme Court judges to transcend the intentions of the founders, Bill Ayers, illegal campaign donations from Mickey Mouse, and on and on. I was right about the gaffes, too: Joe the Plumber, nost notably, and a loose Roman candle by Joe Biden saying electing his running mate would lead to an international trial of Obama's mettle. Come to think of it, Joe Biden himself is a gaffe.
But I was wrong about the press. They have not yet turned on Obama. Just the reverse: they have become more blatantly partisan in his favour week by week, and far more than ever before. Instead of covering them, they have basically done their best to suppress all these stories. They have as much as already declared Obama elected.
Some have theorized an unspoken pact at work: in return for getting Barack elected with a Democratic majority in both houses, the old mainstream media types expect a renewed “fairness doctrine,” applying not just to radio and TV but also the Internet. This, they hope, will suppress the new voices that are swiftly robbing them of their viewers, listeners, readers, advertisers, and livelihoods.
I doubt this. For several reasons:
1.Such a new law would be unlikely to survive a Supreme Court challenge.
2.You can't control the Internet, because you can't control foreign sites. A suppression of free speech on American blogs would only be a boon for Canadian (and Qatari?) bloggers; and Canadian Internet-based talk radio.
3.It would be too unlikely to work; instead, the blatant partisanship seems likely to hasten their decline, driving readers to those new voices to get the real news.
4.The left is not smart enough to pull off something this coordinated.
No, I think the failure to turn on Obama is based on something else.
It might still have something to do with news sense. Yes, the media are long overdue to find out he's not the Messiah. Even so, the bigger they build him, the better the eventual news when he blows. So there is no compelling reason to pop the bubble now. And, if he does actually get elected, it is intrinsically more newsworthy than if McCain does--”First Black American President.” Not to mention the most leftist president ever, with the legislative majority to try something dramatic. That could generate lots of news. Then there will be lots of time to destroy him later.
Unfortunately, this instinctive attitude, while good for the news business, would of course be very bad for America. If Obama is discredited only after he is elected, the cost will be a failed presidency, and a rough four years for everyone.
I think there may be another reason—a bit of wisdom as old as Aeschylus. In “Prometheus Bound,” Heaphaestos explains Zeus's cruelty with the observation, “his rule is always harsh whose rule is new.” A tyrant who most fears being toppled is most inclined to harsh measures.
Just so, the mainstream media, once so powerful, seeing their power slip so swiftly away, may be up for one last mad fling: seeing if they can actually skew the news enough to elect their favoured candidate. Flexing their power to the maximum before it's all gone.
Afgter all, if you're going down with the Titanic anyway, you might as well finish the champagne.
However, I still don't think they are going to pull it off. First, the press bias is too blatant. People are beginning to talk. It is losing its intended effect. It may now even start to generate a backlash, against both Obama as well as the MSM. McCain has at last started to rise quickly in the polls, perhaps just in time to pull off a victory.
Second, even if it is effctive, such press bias is likely to create of increase a “Bradley effect.” If everything they read and see on TV says Obama is going to win, and should win, people will be that much shyer of saying to a stranger that they still want to vote for McCain. If the Bradley effect has in the past typically been in the range of ten percentage points, with this kind of media push against the pricks, it should this time be, if anything, something higher than that. Obama is now leading by 5.9% in the poll of polls, with that gap closing.
I say he still loses.