The more things change, the more they remain the same.
The stakes are the same. The environment may be a little different.
Sixteen years ago I was elected at the congressional district level as a national delegate pledged to vote to nominate Al Gore at the Democratic National Convention. I had been active in the party for years and, like everyone else who wanted to be a delegate, ran a campaign on my behalf to convince other county level delegates (over 100, if I recall correctly) to elect me. I was successful, but it wasn’t easy nor was the outcome assured.
I spent a lot of time on the floor of the convention (the Missouri delegation had center front seats, right behind the Tennessee delegation) and had plenty of opportunity to watch and interact with old media – broadcast and print.
On one of the evenings before Al Gore’s acceptance speech a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Dennis Farney, was interviewing Missouri delegates, asking, as I recall, what Al Gore had to say in his speech to convince us that he could convince others and anyone who was listening to support his candidacy [my interpretation of the questions]. I remember thinking, “What the @&%#? We’re all Gore delegates, he doesn’t have to convince us of anything.” So, I edged over and started talking at the reporter. I told him that I thought most people weren’t paying attention yet and that when they did they’d get it. I told him that I grew up in Arizona and that we had a saying about people like George W. Bush, “He’s all hat, and no cattle.” This is what ran in the paper on Friday morning:
Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2000, A24, “Missouri Delegation has One Hope for Gore: Show the Real Man”, Dennis Farney.
…Delegates from Missouri, the Show-Me State have a direct but difficult expectation of Al Gore when he speaks tonight…
‘All Hat and No Cattle’
…”Then people will realize that Bush is all hat and no cattle,” predicts Michael Bersin…
“Difficult?” Yeah, he wrote that.
After the 2000 and 2004 elections the media landscape changed dramatically. Sure, The Faux News Channel still has a sizeable and steady (though demographically challenging) viewership, but in comparison to 2000 and 2004 there is now a wider variety and greater number of new media resources providing information to counter what was then part of the dominant conventional wisdom.
That’s why we exist.
Does anyone believe that Hillary Clinton’s or Bernie Sander’s candidacies would have survived the 2000 or 2004 media environment? It does remain to be seen about 2016. But the world has changed – just a bit. It’s more difficult now for the right to sling bullshit and for old media stenographers to uncritically repeat it.
And that’s why we’ll continue to do what we do. The stakes are high. They always are.
The world has changed (February 13, 2016)
Originalism in a time of argle-bargle (February 14, 2016)
Clarity in a time of right wingnut political fog (February 15, 2016)