Thursday, November 08, 2007

Why the Horse Race?

Via Bob Somerby's incomparable Daily Howler, I bring you this Q&A from the New York Times...

The Horse Race

Q: I am deeply disturbed by what I believe is true — the press, liberal and conservative — pays far more attention to the horse race aspects of
the 2008 primary campaign than it does to the specifics of what each candidate is proposing and how this fits with past actions and statements. Why is that?
Jerry Bakker
Grand Haven, Mich.

Katharine Q. Seelye, political reporter:
Hi Jerry,
It’s a good question that we don’t stop often enough to ask ourselves. But a recent study has documented what you believe to be true. In the first five months of this year, almost two-thirds of the mainstream media campaign coverage was devoted to the horse race (and subsidiaries thereof, like polls, tactics and fund-raising).
Why do we do it? Lots of reasons. I’ll start with the obvious: We can’t help ourselves! It’s instinctive. The term horse race reflects
what everyone wants to know: who’s winning?
Another reason: It’s easier. It takes time and patience to dig through records, to get answers from candidates that go beyond spin
and talking points. And often, candidates don’t want to be pinned down, especially on where they will find the money to pay for all of the wonderful plans they are proposing.

Seelye goes on with other reasons that are mostly bullshit, but she copped to the two primary reasons the media covers elections as a horse race; because it's easier than covering them substantively, to analyze issues and to point out when candidates say things that are demonstrably factually untrue, and because they can't help themselves.

And these are the people who are the guardians of our public discourse. I suppose we should give her some credit for candor.
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