What's the storyline in South Carolina?

[Cross-posted from my Mojo Mom blog]

I am a Democrat, a big John Edwards fan, but I see good things in Obama and Clinton as well. I have been very frustrated by the mainstream media forcing storylines on an election that is just starting to unfold. The best analysis I have seen of the insistence on "horse race" coverage is "Why Campaign Coverage Sucks" by Jay Rosen, originally reported on TomDispatch.com, and reposted to Salon.com.

Today on CNN.com, as the primary is underway, the headline says, "Obama's legitimacy on line in South Carolina." Oh really? Who says? I am worried that the media has painted Obama into a racial box in South Carolina: on the one hand, Obama needs to show strong from African-American support. As CNN's Bill Schneider says, "Obama's support among African-American voters gives him more legitimacy. Obama has been doing well with young voters, independents and educated upper-middle-class liberals -- the NPR vote. Winning the black vote by a solid margin means Obama has standing with the Democratic Party's base."

But on the other hand, what if Obama wins South Carolina on the strength of the black vote, but lags behind in the white vote? Will the man who was once questioned for being "Black Enough" now become marginalized as "The Black Candidate," even though he won in lily-white Iowa and got 37% of the vote versus Clinton's 39% in New Hampshire? It seems to me that Hillary Clinton gets only beneficial bonus points for winning the black vote but obviously can't be marginalized as the White Candidate for scoring too many points in her demographic.

The gender card is its own mine-field. Of course Hillary Clinton faces the double-bind of being tough enough yet likeable and relatable. I am concerned about both of these fine candidates being pigeonholed unfairly, and I was really upset by the squabbling this week between Clinton and Obama. I did get the impression personally that Clinton's campaign has unleashed some unfair attacks against Obama, that Hillary has tried to appear to be rising above that fray yet sends her surrogates (Bill and others) to do the dirty work. Some call that politics, some call it hardball, I call it unfortunate. I will consider this election a failure if our unconscious racism and sexism are used as weapons by candidates against each other. I guess that brands me as a hopeless idealist, because of course this is already happening and will happen between parties [and memo to Broadsheet, a blog that I generally respect, your growing fascination with this drama is making it worse] but it crushes me to see candidates whom I like and respect going after each other that way.

As for the narrative of the Democratic Primary, Obama won Iowa, Clinton won New Hampshire, and although both "beat expectations" in each race, it's pretty close between the two of them. Why do we have to have this huge back-and-forth drama after each race? Both Clinton and Obama have more support in their party than any individual Republican has in his party. These are two viable candidates, and we should let the voters rather than the media decide who will end up on top.

What do you think? Am I on to something here, and am I also missing something? I am open to the possibility that I am adopting storylines without being conscious of them. My favorite political pundit is definitely Jon Stewart, who is not afraid to call the media out on its B. S. Stewart deftly skewered pollster John Zogby for the fact that all the predictions about the Democratic New Hampshire primary were just WRONG. Zogby didn't have a good answer for what went wrong, or Stewart's common-sense question about why can't we just wait a couple of days and see what the voters say?

Maybe because it would put the pundits out of business....? For a rare glimpse of sanity on CNN.com, read University of South Carolina School of Law Professor Danielle Holley-Walker's commentary, "Issues -- not gender or race -- on minds of voters," and stay tuned for the voice of the voters in South Carolina and beyond.

Living in North Carolina, I am happy to think that my vote in the Primary on May 6th could actually mean something.

For more background on this topic I recommend Drew Westen's book The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation. Race and gender touch deep buttons in all of us, and it would be a shame if we let manipulation of these frameworks determine the outcome of our election. In 2000 we seemed to pick based on the guy we'd rather have a beer with, and look where that got us. We need to really think things through this time and make sure we're guided by our better angels rather than our unconscious comfort zones or prejudices.


I've been in bed all day....

watching the coverage (sick, not lazy!). It has been weird watching them sit around and talk about whether Bill Clinton is invoking race, while that is all they do all day long. Early in the day there was one guy on MSNBC who tried to point out, Craig Crawford just popped into my head, he tried to point out that he didn't think Clinton was invoking racism, that the media covering Bill Clinton was.
One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Great observations.

Thanks for stopping by Mojomom.

One needn't scratch very deep to find the ugly stain of racism in our culture. America was, after all, born in the dirty water of ethnic cleansing and raised in the shadow of slavery.

Clinton surrogates

RobertP, I was also thinking of the Clinton surrogates who made an issue of Obama's past drug use even as the campaign tried to distance itself from the fact that they brought it up. Sometimes politics truly feels like a snake devouring its own tail.

On a more personal note, I hope you feel better soon!

Michigan and Florida Delegates

Can the Clinton Campaign ask for those delegates to be counted? I have heard that the campaign committee has said today that they hope to seat the Michigan and Florida delegates.

did all the Dem candidates agree to the rules beforehand?

The rules were not to participate in primaries that are held outside of the calendar approved by the National Dem Party.

If Clinton gets all of those delegates because she was the only one who left her name on the ballot...that feels like a crooked game of cards.
I want to work for the Democratic Candidate, but I also want to feel good about their race. I think we should treat Democrats fairly, just as I want to win this election fairly.

distressed by all the negatives commentary going on...


Clinton's don't care about rules.

Whether or not the delegates are seated depends on what you think the definition of is is.

They messed up, they went early, they were stripped, no one else ran there, the delegates should not be seated.

One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.