Tag Archive for media

A post-factual convention? Part 2: Reality? We can change it.

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In a satirical debriefing of Paul Ryan’s nomination acceptance address on The Daily Show“RNC correspondent” John Oliver considers the theme of the Republican National Convention’s second night, “We Can Change It.” A slogan clearly designed as a commonplace strategic appeal in the “challenger style” of campaign rhetoric — the challenger calls for change, and argues that s/he is better than the incumbent to achieve change, Oliver takes it in a very different direction:

Oliver’s commentary not only echoes that of many media observers following Ryan’s address, but gets at a function of party convention narratives that has been a mainstay of the presidential campaign process — as least in the age of conventions as televised spectacles. An important question this year seems to be whether the GOP has risen to a new level of creativity with reality — a “post-factual” campaign, if you will, and whether the Democratic response is powerless to counteract it.  Let’s consider these points in Part 2 of the Denizen’s three-part series on the Republican National Convention, corresponding with the central theme of the convention’s second night.

 

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Our long national nightmare is over…

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We know what you’re thinking… “OK, the presidential campaign is in full swing, Paul Ryan is the Republican Veep nominee, the GOP convention has concluded and the Democratic convention is days away, the economic recovery is still slow and painful (with everyone blaming everybody else), the media fact-checkers and cable news commentators are having conniption fits… and we’re watching Clint Eastwood chastise an empty chair without a script, while you guys are nowhere to be found?”

Guilty as charged. We won’t try to put up a front — blogging can be hard when things get busy… and then the regret points start piling up (“oh, we missed this… oops, we missed that… how could we let that one get away?”). But we’ve missed the action as much as you have, so it’s time to jump back into the fray.

Labor Day traditionally is the time when political campaigns relaunch themselves, to reintroduce themselves to their fans and foes and to introduce themselves to a new set of audiences seeing them for the first time. Thus it shall be with the Political Denizens. If you are reading us for the first time, we welcome you to our citadel of Beyond the Beltway commentary from an interdisciplinary, liberal arts perspective. Please check out our intro page and find out more about us.

For our true believers, waiting anxiously for another taste, here it comes. Say tuned for a debriefing of the Republican National Convention, a guest article from Honorary Denizen Janis Edwards and her students from the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa on GOP spouses, and more. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well, where we’ll share some of our favorite online news and blog articles.

And……… RELAUNCH!

Some Contests Are More “Nonbinding” Than Others

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Rick Santorum had a great night last night — he went three for three in primary and caucus contests, beating Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich handily and gaining a deluge of free media attention. Observers of these events are likely already clear on a few key points:

  • Newt Gingrich wasn’t even on the ballot in Missouri, and Romney had close to zero organization and media effort there as well. Both campaigns have claimed that they didn’t even bother because the primary was “non-binding” (of course, Gingrich also failed to get on the ballot in the more important Virginia primary coming up, so take the previous statement with a grain of salt).
  • The Romney camp is surely disappointed in the results of the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses, given that they made a greater effort to play to win in those states, and now they faced renewed charges that Romney is disliked by Republicans and won’t be able to rally their support against Barack Obama in November. But the spin since last night downplays the results of these contests as well, in part because they are “non-binding.”

So what do we make of today’s media framing of the Santorum wins?  Well, what complicates matters is that, to awkwardly paraphrase Orwell, all non-binding contests are non-binding, but some are more non-binding than others.

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The Iowa Caucuses: Do They Actually Mean Anything?

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So, it’s the day after the Iowa caucuses. The first votes in the 2012 presidential nominating contest have been cast, and we’ve seen some results that are surprising, some not. What do we now know, and what have we learned?

Well, at this point what we know is easy to see. Mitt Romney won the Republican caucuses by a mere eight votes, in a statistical tie with Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania US Senator who will soon undoubtedly be dubbed “the Comeback Kid” by some blogosphere pundit somewhere. In an unexpectedly strong second place, Ron Paul more than doubled his 2008 caucus vote count and demonstrated his dominance in the constituencies of young and first-time caucus voters – groups that are far less likely to vote in big state primaries. So it is likely that the news media will continue to frame Paul as an iconoclastic also-ran with little chance of winning the nomination (as they still focus more attention on Newt Gingrich, who trailed in an embarrassing fourth place)… with the end result for public opinion that Paul will be an iconoclastic also-ran with little chance of winning the nomination.

The booby prize for the most precipitous fall from glory is a bit harder to determine: is it Michelle Bachmann, who went from Ames straw poll winner to near-last-place cellar dweller (beating only John Huntsman, who didn’t seriously compete, and two former candidates who are out of the running), who dropped out of the race today? Or is it Newt Gingrich, who saw his meteoric rise to front-runner status after the downfall of Herman Cain (prompting no small amount of front-runner braggadocio) melt away in the face of an attack ad blitzkrieg? In any event, less clear is how these results affect Rick Perry, who rapidly moved from “suspending the campaign” back to “here we come, South Carolina!” faster than the scrolling news ticker on the bottom of a cable TV news screen.

That’s what we know (and what we don’t). But what have we learned from Tuesday? As Alice observed, the GOP nominating contest becomes “curiouser and curiouser.” The lessons?

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The Iowa blitz: A college admissions perspective

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Kent Barnds, our friend at Augustana College, is the Vice President of Enrollment, Communication and Planning. He supervises our college’s admissions recruitment efforts; in his former position, he ran this operation directly. So, as a registered Republican in Iowa, Kent has a unique take on how his fellow Iowans receive the deluge of media appeals from prospective presidential candidates in advance of the January 3rd caucuses.

He recently blogged on the experience, from his unique perspective, for The Washington Post. The Denizens share that piece with you. It’s an intriguing look at political marketing from the perspective of someone who is both the target audience and a perpetrator of not dissimilar marketing strategies. Enjoy!

 

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In recent years, it has become trendy for college presidents to temporarily live in a residence hall to gain insight into what their students experience and, on occasion, to develop a degree of sympathy for their short-term neighbors.

In the last few weeks, I feel like I have accidentally stumbled upon a similar experience: I am an enrollment professional at Augustana College, a small liberal arts college in Illinois. And I am a registered Republican living in Iowa who is on the receiving end of hard-core — at times really annoying and inconvenient — recruiting by virtually every candidate seeking the nomination of the Republican Party.

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Debates: Discourse for Citizenship, or Televisual Tactic?

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The Denizens took their students to Springfield, Illinois earlier this month to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, as well as selected Lincoln historic sites.It gave us a great opportunity to examine the intersection of institutional politics and public communication in the historic work of perhaps the iconic American president. Among the episodes of Lincoln’s mythic history that are highlighted in Springfield is the rivalry between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, the “Little Giant” who bested the “Big Giant” in the 1858 US Senate race but lost to him in the 1860 presidential campaign. The seven 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates over “popular sovereignty” and the extension of slavery into US territories were an epic political circus at the time, launched Lincoln into the national spotlight, and became the historic archetype for debate as a component of campaign discourse.

Flash-forward fifty-three years, and we observe a pair of provocative phenomena: a candidate for president using debate challenges as a game of political chicken with opponents, and media pundits pondering whether a debate-driven campaign is actually valuable. What’s going on?

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Romney vs. Not-Romney

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Today’s Talking Points Memo reports on a Campaign 2012 phenomenon that the Denizens have recently commented on: the persistent competition between Mitt Romney and “Not Romney.” Here’s the guts of Eric Kleefeld’s take on the poolling in key early primary and caucus states, which depict Romney’s stagnation amidst an ebb and flow of Not-Romneys:

As has been noted many times, the Republican contest has gone through a cycle of one candidate or another gaining a sudden, massive amount of support against Romney, only to collapse after a combination of blunders and media scrutiny — see Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain. The big question, then, is whether any candidate will be able to put up a stable anti-Romney front, or if the competition are too flawed, and Romney can take it by default. (Newt Gingrich, you’re now up at bat.) And if Herman Cain should now drop out of the race — he suggested on Tuesday he was ‘reassessing’ things — that could mean a sudden turn to a much rougher road for Romney. The numbers suggest Gingrich would be much more the beneficiary of a Cain departure than Romney.

So what do we make of this situation?

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Why Polls are for Nerds… Usually.

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OK, Point 1 on why polls are for nerds, at least usually: it’s the day after Thanksgiving, I read a Washington Post blog article on some recent polling from the Tarrance Group for Politico and George Washington University that I think has limited usefulness at best, and I proceed to start writing about it immediately. That’s nerdy.

But while there is much we can learn from public opinion polls, especially in politics, it’s important to keep them in perspective — particularly the perspective of media framing and institutional norms of journalism that are usually all but allergic to a long view.

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