POLITICS

BREAKING: Politico, Drudge-Baiting And Pointlessly Mystifying The Political Process

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Much has already been said about Politico editor John F. Harris's recent idiotic "7 stories Barack Obama doesn't want told" article. Matt Yglesias makes one of the most important points here:

Harris says that "presidential politics is about storytelling" and "[n]o one understands this better than Barack Obama and his team, who won the 2008 election in part because they were better storytellers than the opposition." More recently, however, "Obama's gift for controlling his image shows signs of faltering."

Harris has no evidence whatsoever for any of this.. And there's just no reason to believe that winners win because they're "better storytellers" than the opposition. Obama was from the opposite party of an unpopular incumbent, running at a time of economic distress. Under the circumstances, his victory was very predictable.

Of course Harris has no "evidence." His whole exercise is one of creating a meta-narrative (in this case, about meta-narratives!) out of whole cloth. This is a common practice in the political media, whose members ply their trade as if the goal was to mystify the political process in the most ornate and pointless ways possible.

Most political wags have the deeply-held need to be regarded as super-smart people who are constantly at work penetrating byzantine mysteries for the sake of Americans who, in their view, could not possibly understand all the amazing complexities of contemporary politics. The problem is, elections are typically decided according to predictable voter patterns, candidate popularity and whether or not a candidate exploits the former or compounds the latter by avoiding or making the greater share of structural campaign errors. Chronicling that in straightforward fashion is not much fun!

So, they manufacture stories. Sometimes about storytelling!

This was in play, big time, during the brief and mostly unremarkable election season of 2009, when the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey were shoehorned into an operatic saga about the first 10 months of the Obama White House, and What The Country Had To Say About It.

How's this for storytelling? Once upon a time, a gentleman named Tim Russert wrote "Florida, Florida, Florida" on a whiteboard. He turned out to be right about that, and his whiteboard was enshrined at the Newseum as the political media's official Shroud Of Turin. And since then, pundits and touts by the score have attempted to replicate this feat, believing that it can be accomplished not through shrewd analysis of available facts but by tossing as much Delphinic crap at the wall as possible in the hope that something will stick.

In this world, a guy can be consistently really, really wrong without any fear that his colleagues will point it out -- and if you bleat out something provocative enough, you can earn the rich rewards of Drudge-baiting.

And, wow, now we have this narrative about narratives. We are truly down the rabbit hole, people. Know what's down there? Mostly rabbit shit!

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