MEDIA
06/07/2010 11:50 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Slate Writers Help Readers Demystify The Political Press

I'm loving this piece from Chris Beam in Slate entitled "The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read." It's a rather brilliant and hilarious plumbing of the puddle-deep political tropes that the political media and political academics reflexively dials up, as if they were half-dissected frogs who occasionally get the twitchy benefit of an electric current.

Still, Democrats hope that passing health care and financial regulatory reform will give them enough momentum to win in November. Unfortunately, there's little relationship between legislative victories and electoral victories. Also, what the hell is "momentum"?

Prospects for an energy bill, meanwhile, are looking grim, since Obama has spent all his political capital. He used to have a lot. Now it's gone. Why winning legislative battles builds momentum but saps political capital, I have no idea. Just go with it.

Possible "game changers" for Obama include plugging the oil leak, peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, and World War III, although these events would be almost entirely outside Obama's control.

In a similar vein, I'd recommend checking out a few pieces from Beam's Slate colleague Tom Scocca, who has recently been sending up the same tendencies in the media in a re-occurring feature in his blog, called "The Vapors." Scocca's reaction to a helium-filled exegesis from the Washington Post's Dan Balz may have been a little too high-concept for his readers, but I thought it brilliantly deflated that souffle. He returns today with an item on how a narrative about the decline of President Barack Obama's approval numbers can be constructed even without any measurable decline in his approval numbers.

In a related observation, I'll join many others in welcoming the way the New York Times has recently embraced the work the Nate Silver's been doing at FiveThirtyEight.com. Silver's been a force for jailbreaking the often impenetrable world of polling. I hope that the Times will also value the great field-reporting efforts Silver's site made during the 2008 campaign, which saw affiliated bloggers filing state-by-state reports of visits to campaign offices. It provided a terrific overview of the ground-game fundamentals that actually determined the election -- a topic the media typically ignores.

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