Saturday, May 31, 2008

About that study: Geraldine Ferraro, Wise Sage II

In an op-ed yesterday, Geraldine Ferraro suggested that the Shorenstein Center examine the media coverage of the 2008 primary, to expose the unfairness of the media.

Guess what? The group did release a study, yesterday in fact-- the same day Ferraro asked for one. But why did Mrs. Ferraro ask for a study when one has been conducted. Oh, it did not provide the result she desired.


What Were the Media Master Narratives about the Candidates During the Primary Season?

Thursday, May 29Barack Obama did not enjoy more positive press coverage than Hillary Clinton at the height of the primary season, at least when it came to the candidates’ personal narratives. And as early as February, coverage began to turn even less positive toward Obama than toward his rival, according to a joint study released today by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) and the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

In contrast to accusations of the media being easier on the senator from Illinois, the dominant personal narratives about Obama and Clinton – their character, history, leadership and appeal—were almost identical in tone. Overall, they were twice as positive as negative narratives for both candidates. But the trajectory of that coverage about Obama got progressively more skeptical, immediately after Clinton herself accused the media of showing preference during a February debate.

As for John McCain, he has had a harder time controlling his message in the press. Fully 57% of the narratives studied about him were critical in nature, though a look back through the entire campaign, including 2007, reveals the storyline about the Republican nominee has steadily improved with time.

This coverage, however, did not necessarily always correlate with the views of potential voters. Opinion surveys conducted in conjunction with the content study found that public perceptions of McCain and Obama largely—but not entirely—tracked with the tenor of the major narrative themes in the press. With Hillary Clinton, however, the public seemed to have developed opinions about her that ran counter to the media coverage, perhaps based on other factors or views which had solidified before the primary season.
You can read the report here if you choose. I wait for a correction by Ferraro but I won't hold my breath.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Wise Sage, Geraldine Ferraro

The Clinton supporter has an op-ed in The Boston Globe about the role of sexism in the Democratic Primary Race between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. For a statement by Ferraro, it seems worse than her other arguments, especially for the way in which it stereotypes voters and absolves the Clinton campaign of any guilt. Here is here argument:

After a long election between two extraordinary candidates (well, one extraordinary candidate and Senator Obama), the democratic party is not united right now because of the role of sexism and reverse racism against Senator Clinton and her supporters. Neither the Obama campaign nor the media (get it, they are working together, an essential component to her argument and the Clinton's conspiracy argument), understand that women feel Clinton was treated unfairly because of sexism and that white working class voters feel they have been treated unfairly because of reverse racism. The obvious implication, WITHOUT EVIDENCE, is that the Obama campaign (who in the campaign exactly?) and the media (who in particular?) is responsible. In the opening two paragraphs, Ferraro shifts the burden of proof (fallacy of ignorance) to show sexism occurred (without evidence) and the Obama campaign & the media is responsible whereby the acts of one stand for the entire group (fallacy of composition).

If you are going to make your case, then make it with evidence not an assertion. Don't scream out emotive words (sexism, reverse racism) and fail to provide definitions or examples. In regards to sexism, communicative acts need no interpretation as sexist claims and acts "exist" as being self-evident.

But it gets better:
In response, a group of women - from corporate executives to academics to members of the media - have requested that the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University and others conduct a study, which we will pay for if necessary, to determine three things.

First, whether either the Clinton or Obama campaign engaged in sexism and racism; second, whether the media treated Clinton fairly or unfairly; and third whether certain members of the media crossed an ethical line when they changed the definition of journalist from reporter and commentator to strategist and promoter of a candidate. And if they did to suggest ethical guidelines which the industry might adopt.

Well, this is a "fair court" as Monty Python would suggest. A group of women conducting a study to determine if there is bias. I wonder what they will find... If you already conclude that sexism existed in the campaign, they why do you need a study to prove your point when, under the circumstances of the study, it would hard to conclude that this group is impartial. The clear suggestion throughout is that there are individuals and corporations against Senator Clinton and an impartial group, from a major constituency of Senator Clinton, will be able to provide impartial evidence.

As for the questions, well what does sexism and racism look like? Tell us about the interpretive process or what the definitions will be? How often does it have to occur? Will context or intent matter? What does it mean to be treated fair or unfair? Will you be concerned as to whether or not other candidates were treated unfairly? What is bias? How ought we interpret the actions of the candidates in the past? How does experience fit in your mathematical equation, especially if Senator Obama cut in Senator Clinton's line before her, regardless of the fact that the voters selected him over her? (Or if this were true, since Senator Biden declared his candidacy shouldn't Senator Clinton abstained from running?) How can we include or exclude sexism and racism from the zero sum game of elections? Can this study group, under the guide of impartiality, give us an account of bias that would be fair? It doesn't seem like it.

Unfortunately, Ferraro's argument continues. Senator Clinton was treated unfairly because of sexism and it may have cost her the election, though no where does it suggest Senator Clinton was wrong to rely on gender to advance her campaign or Senator Obama was treated unfairly (by the Clinton campaign) because of his race. Further, there is no consideration how sexism may have helped her, especially rally her base. It is wrong for Senator Obama and his campaign to use the race card but reciprocity does not exist to Ferraro.

This is my problem with her argument. Guilt only exists on the part of one party. Her attempts to fix this overlooks the role of agency and interpretation and imposes one set of speech norms as it separates speech from its context. It seems that while sexism exists, without interpretation, claims that involve race must be scrutinized closely because claims of racism cut of debate, which in this case, concerns criticism of Senator Obama.

Ferraro leaves us with a discussion of Reagan Democrats who feel, like herself, that they cannot criticize Senator Obama without being called a racist. To Ferraro, these voters (and she stereo-types all of these voters as having the same view, removing agency from them and denying them the chance for interpretation, but I digress):

They see Obama's playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening. They're not upset with Obama because he's black; they're upset because they don't expect to be treated fairly because they're white. It's not racism that is driving them, it's racial resentment. And that is enforced because they don't believe he understands them and their problems. That when he said in South Carolina after his victory "Our Time Has Come" they believe he is telling them that their time has passed.
Two things: first, Ferraro's original complaint was that she was attacked for suggestion Obama received special treatment because of race and that he did not possess the experience of Senator Clinton, which is a subjective claim at best.

Second, it appears that, to Ferraro, Obama ran on identity politics, contrary to what he argued throughout the campaign. It seems she knows him so well that his intent does not matter, only hers. Further, because of his identity politics and his elitism, he will not be able to identify with voters (pay attention Super Delegates, there is nothing that can be done about this:

Whom he chooses for his vice president makes no difference to them. That he is pro-choice means little. Learning more about his bio doesn't do it. They don't identify with someone who has gone to Columbia and Harvard Law School and is married to a Princeton-Harvard Law graduate. His experience with an educated single mother and being raised by middle class grandparents is not something they can empathize with. They may lack a formal higher education, but they're not stupid. What they're waiting for is assurance that an Obama administration won't leave them behind.
It appears that Senator Obama cannot understand these voters and their problems because he attended Columbia and Harvard and is married to a Princeton-Harvard Lawyer. Even though Hillary Clinton attended Wellesley and Yale and her husband attended Georgetown, received a Fullbright scholarship, won a Rhodes Scholarship, attended Yale, and skipped out on Vietnam, the Clintons can relate to these voters. However, since Obama attended Columbia and Harvard, and his wife (why this is in here, I have no idea, really, no really, I couldn't guess), Harvard-Princeton, he cannot relate to them. Make your argument about elite sensibilities but making it on education makes you look foolish. Further, these voters can not relate to Obama's family experience because even his middle-class upbringing is elitist even though he was raised by grand parents and a single mother for a time. That is a great generalization. Finally, he doesn't advocate policies for them, which is a reference to the gas holiday policy since most of the policies are similar. But the GTH is just a terrible policy. At one point, the Clinton campaign attacked Obama because of elite sensibilities. But elite materialism does not work when your candidate attended prestigious schools and made $100 million in the past eight years.

Geraldine, we get it. You do not like the Obamas for the way in which you perceive they treated the Clintons. Fine, they attacked your friends and heroes. Make your case against them and do not hide behind "sexism" or "elitism" when doing so because, when you do, you deflect and purify the actions of the Clinton campaign, who have not been innocent throughout this election. Neither party is innocent, don't pretend they are.

Same-Sex Marriages in New York

Gov. David Patterson announced that same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries will be legally recognized in New York. While the Empire state will not allow for the performance in state, those who marry in other states will receive full rights from the state and agencies that do not comply will be subject to liability. You can read the text of the official announcement and see his statement here.

In New York, same-sex marriages have moved slowly. In 2006, the state courts refused to create a right, deferring to the legislature for this act, though the Court's decision did not prevent the recognition of this right in New York. Because of Republicans in the state senate, the legislature has not passed legislation to recognize same-sex marriages. Yet, with elections in 2008, Democrats may pick up some seats in the state senate. If this were to occur, then same-sex marriage may pass through the legislature and the act will not be subject to a Governor's undemocratic veto, as in the case of California.

The practical effect may be "marriage tourism," where citizens of New York visit California or Canada for marriage and then return to living in New York. This would not happen in Massachusetts though because of the state's residency requirement.

Those opposed to this measure still possess the chance to persuade voters that this is wrong. Whether or not this occurs is another story.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Ethos of Democracy, or, This is What Democracy Looks Like

Only three primaries, one legal-like meeting, and one protest left remains in this epic battle!!!

On Saturday, the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet to discuss the Florida and Michigan situations. There have been many proposals as how to seat the delegates from the two delinquent states, from awarding the full delegate and popular vote totals for Senator Clinton and giving Senator Obama his totals from Florida but not Michigan (thank you Grand Inquisitor of Democracy Lanny Davis); to awarding the full vote in both and giving Senator Obama the uncommitted delegates in Michigan, which leaves us the problem with illegitimate elections though we expect that in the US; to counting the full vote in Florida and providing a 69 - 59 delegate split in Michigan sans popular vote, which carries an assumption of an illegitimate election but does not state it explicitly and makes little sense; to cutting the delegations in half but hopefully not the people themselves; to allowing Harrogate to decide the outcome after a pick-up game of hoops-- he better choose Obama first, or maybe his assistant, Reggie Love; or Oxymoron reforming the listening room to hear oral arguments and then contemplating this mess over The Beatles White Album, (the only record I ever heard in the listening room....)

MSNBC has a good review of the possible scenarios. I would argue the fight is not over the delegate totals but rather the popular vote. Even if Senator Clinton receives her delegate "result" from the original "vote" then she is still far, far behind. However, if she can claim the vote totals (through illegitimate elections) then she can make her case to the Super Delegates on the basis of winning the popular vote (minus Obama votes from caucus states and Michigan or any one else she sees fit). Look for the delegate to be seated (no surprise there) and be awarded 50% of their original strength. American Idol, er, MSNBC Political Analyst Chuck Todd (Viva Chuck Todd) reports that the rumor of the day is that the popular vote in Florida would count & their delegate total would be cut in half while Michigan's delegates would split 50-50 and the popular vote would be excluded, making the nomination mark 2,118. Great only half or three fourths the illegitimacy.... way to go Democrats!!! And if they campaigns & the DNC reach a deal here, who trusts both parties to keep to their word.

The irony would be if these states planned to hold their primaries in June then they would have been seated in full, would carry enormous influence over the process, and would have received bonus delegates----It's just like bonus democracy!!! Hat's off for the states that wait.

Even better than the fight inside will be the protests outside--- Brooks Brothers Riot anyone? Outside the main event, Clinton supporters, such as Women Count PAC, will be protesting in an attempt to get the original vote seated as is (see their blackmail poster here). During the protest, Clinton fundraiser Elizabeth Bagley, Reps. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio and Corrine Brown of Florida, and Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, will address the protesters. However, in keeping with Senator Clinton's campaign slogans, the speakers will not give speeches or engage in rhetoric; they will only provide solutions or act. It will be as if a bunch of philosophers walked into a room, contemplated, and reached "the truth" without discussion. Performance art for everyone. (For a list of non-speakers, er, I mean speakers, click here.)

If there were ever a time for a dastardly act by the Republicans, Saturday would be the opportune time. All the networks plan on covering this spectacle. Why riot just at the convention when you can riot in DC and the convention.

On a totally, related and unrelated note, we finally watched HBO's Recount. After watching the movie, I walked away with three conclusions: (1) Political parties possess way to much influence in the electoral process and the judiciary offers little sanctuary; (2) Kevin's Spacey's character, Ron Klain, showed that the real travesty was that a political party could purge over 20,000 voters from participating in the election without anyone knowing, making the election result predictable and tainted; (3) this is why you cannot solve a problem with an election after the election. Once the vote is in and the winner has a chance to define the situation, fairness becomes an after thought.

These lessons apply to the 2008 primary as well.

Oh Well. Viva Chuck Todd

Anti-Abortion Amendment in Colorado

CBS News reports that in November the citizens of Colorado will vote on an anti-abortion ballot initiative that would alter the state's constitution. The measure would require that the state constitution define personhood as "any human being from the moment of fertilization." Here is the text of the initiative:
Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Colorado:
SECTION 1. Article II of the constitution of the state of Colorado is amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION to read:
Section 31. Person defined. As used in sections 3, 6, and 25 of Article II of the state constitution, the terms "person" or "persons" shall include any human being from the moment of fertilization.
The measure developed through a grass roots campaign by
Colorado for Equal Rights, not to be confused with the group Equal Rights Colorado.

Colorado should be a swing state this year. This may help to increase the turnout for social conservatives who may have stayed home this election.

The law is an obvious attempt to limit abortions though the implications of this amendment are quite vague. Would it be murder if a mother had a miscarriage,? What if the egg were fertilized but there was no implantation? Where do we draw the line?

I am not sure if this initiative will pass, but it raises some questions about how social conservatives will fight the election.

Sign of the Immient Apocalypse

Dunkin' Donuts pulled a television advertisement that featured Rachel Ray because the television food guru wore a black and white scarf that looks like a, "keffiyeh, a traditional headdress worn by Arab men."

When Michelle Malkin saw the ad, she threatened a boycott because the ‘‘The keffiyeh, for the clueless, is the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad."

When Dunkin' Donuts pulled the ad, Michelle Malkin stated, ‘‘It’s refreshing to see an American company show sensitivity to the concerns of Americans opposed to Islamic jihad and its apologists.’’

By my apartment there are a few Dunkin Donuts locations. By each Dunkin Donuts store, there is a Mom and Pop Bagel joint. Picking which one to consume from became a lot easier when the company capitulates to right wing paranoia.

Until the votes are cast....

On Morning Joe, Clinton Surrogate Lanny Davis-- the same Lanny Davis that supported the stripping of the delegates in Michigan and Florida as an official member of the DNC and who now believes that those vote should count in full regardless of the fictitious elections in both states-- argued that Senator Clinton would continue until "all the votes are cast...." Since Super Delegates cannot officially cast their votes until the DNC Convention in August....This will be a long summer.

The Clinton argument is that polls in May show her winning in November, giving her reason to stay in the race. They must figure that if this trend continues then the Super Delegates will support her in August even though they have not supported her since Super Tuesday.

Of course, Rep. Nancy Pelosi stated the race would be over next week. Who to believe?

Update: after thinking about this more, this could be an attempt to negotiate the VP slot for Senator Clinton. In addition to Lanny Davis, James Carville and Wes Clark have argued, ambiguously, that Clinton may take it to the convention or until things are settled, while Ed Rendell argues that Clinton ought to be the VP. If it is not an attempt to secure the VP, it may be an attempt to persuade the Super Ds to support her & take it to the convention, to beat Obama and run in 2012 (which 1/2 the party will be against her, making it very tough for her), or running third party, which would mean a McCain victory in the fall and a Clinton loss.

Scott McClellan and The Cult of the Kill

After listening to the remarks of Scott McClellan's new book, What Happened, I can only think of Kenneth Burke's poem "The Cult of the Kill," which examines the psychological process over the disruption and the return to order:

Here are the steps
In the Iron Law of History
That welds Order and Sacrifice:

Order leads to Guilt
(for who can keep commandments!)
Guilt needs Redemption
(for who would not be cleansed!)
Redemption needs Redeemer
which is to say, a Victim!).

Through Guilt
To Victimage
(hence: Cult of the Kill). . . .

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Last Female Candidate...?

A few weeks back, we Situationers debated the characteristics of the first female president, a discussion first began by The New York Times. One of the implications of this article is that there would not be another female candidate in our generation. Think that no more....

Over at Slate, Marie Cocco argued in The Washington Post,