Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Media Does Not Get To Blame Hillary Clinton for their Own Choices of Coverage

Last night, I tweeted out the following as an "unpopular opinion":

It turned out to be ... rather popular (for me at least).

Now here's the thing. There is an entirely valid post-mortem critique of the Clinton campaign vis-à-vis the media. It would go something like this:
In our current media climate, what matters is who can get the attention of the cameras. Donald Trump was a master at ginning up free publicity for himself by being outrageous and outlandish. Hillary Clinton -- too dry, too boring, too establishment, too wonky, too policy oriented -- was incapable of adequately countering this strategy. One can moan about how unfair that is, but politics is the art of winning, and Clinton didn't win. So in that essential respect, she, her team, and the Party that picked her failed.
If a member of the media wanted to level that critique, I'd respect that. I'd view it as a rather sad commentary on democracy, but I'd respect the sort of hard-headed realism of it. I'd even accept the claim that the "media climate" reflects nothing more than what the people want, and so the media can't be blamed for not indulging in the delusion that what the people want is neatly laid out agendas for American policy reform.

But for the media -- whose political coverage never left the pendulum swing of "look at this KEE-razy thing Trump said" and "EMAILZ!" -- to now turn around and say that the problem was that Clinton didn't forward a positive agenda for America ... that takes serious chutzpah. Yes, she ran plenty of negative ads. But I saw plenty of positive ads too. And listening to her at the debates or at her DNC speech, the vast majority of her statements were about explaining, calmly and seriously, her plan for how to keep America safe, how to improve the lives of working Americans, how to bring about justice for the full panoply of our diverse population, and so on. The problem was not that this analysis wasn't there. It was, if anything, the centerpiece of her campaign! To say that she tried to run a campaign on nothing more than "I'm not Trump" is ludicrous.

The problem was not that Hillary Clinton ran as "the one who isn't Trump." She didn't. It was the media who chose to treat her as "the boring one who's only relevant as the one who isn't Trump. And who had an email server." And again, if we're saying it's her responsibility to deal with the media we have and the electorate we actually have, not the one deliberative democrats fantasize we have, that's one thing. But it's another thing entirely to blame Hillary Clinton for not presenting a positive policy agenda that she tried desperately to frontload in the face of months of media apathy.

UPDATE: Scott Lemieux: The Media Refuses Accountability For Its Own Malpractice.

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