Friday, March 21, 2008

The power of narrative... to distort reality

We've seen it in past presidential elections. It's really a force of its own in any political race. It's where coverage of politics really has become jarringly similar to sports journalism. I'm talking about the force of narrative, as contrived by the media but also helped along by the candidates and their campaigns.

There's a good essay by Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen over at about the how the media has created a false narrative of a continuing 2-way race for the Democratic nomination when the delegate math makes it virtually impossible for Clinton to win the nomination. Even officials within the Clinton campaign cite a 10% probability Clinton winning the nomination. And that kind of win would not be very satisfying for any Democrat, except for maybe Bill and Hillary.
One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race: Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning.

Her own campaign acknowledges there is no way that she will finish ahead in pledged delegates. That means the only way she wins is if Democratic superdelegates are ready to risk a backlash of historic proportions from the party’s most reliable constituency.

Unless Clinton is able to at least win the primary popular vote — which also would take nothing less than an electoral miracle — and use that achievement to pressure superdelegates, she has only one scenario for victory. An African-American opponent and his backers would be told that, even though he won the contest with voters, the prize is going to someone else.

People who think that scenario is even remotely likely are living on another planet.

As it happens, many people inside Clinton’s campaign live right here on Earth. One important Clinton adviser estimated to Politico privately that she has no more than a 10 percent chance of winning her race against Barack Obama, an appraisal that was echoed by other operatives.

In other words: The notion of the Democratic contest being a dramatic cliffhanger is a game of make-believe.
The force of narrative - contrived, manipulated, sometimes real - has helped both candidates at varying points during this campaign but, in this case, it's so far separated from reality that it's become irresponsible for the reporters, editorialists and headline writers who have fed into it to continue without stopping and taking a fresh look at the reality. As influential and widely read as Politico is with DC-based journalists and opinionmakers, this "stop the madness" essay could do for Obama what Saturday Night Live did for Hillary a few weeks back.

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