James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Posts Tagged ‘Chris Cillizza’

Elizabeth Warren is running for president

Posted by James McPherson on April 23, 2014

elizabeth warrenThough I rarely produce journalistic scoops these days, here’s something that you can say that you read here first: Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts will run for president in 2016, despite what she told ABC just a couple of days ago. Even if Chris Cillizza states flatly, “Elizabeth Warren is almost certainly not running for president in 2016.”

Giving her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps even Warren herself doesn’t know that she’ll be a candidate in 2016. And though I’m often blown away by her intelligence and her grasp of economic issues — and so I shouldn’t suggest that I know something she doesn’t — here are six reasons that I know she’ll run:

First, she wrote a book. And not just any book, as Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll pointed out yesterday, but “a campaign book.” Not a major policy work, but an autobiography, “nothing explosive, but juicy enough to feed the Washington media machine.” A book that “can, at times, read like an extended stump speech.”

Years ago, in my book about the post-World War II rise of conservatism in the U.S. (and previously on this blog), I compared Barack Obama’s campaign to those of earlier candidates. I wrote that Obama “wrote a popular book that might be compared to conservative icon Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative. Obama’s The Audacity of Hope offered an image for the nation’s political future, calling for in one reviewer’s words, ‘a mode of liberalism that sounds both highly pragmatic and deeply moral.'”

A second reason I believe Warren will run is that we’re seemingly seeing her everywhere. Some of the most effective Senators — such as Hillary Clinton, for example — become what are known as legislative “work horses,” keeping their heads down and doing the hard work of legislating. Others become “show horses,” speaking out not only in public hearings but whenever they can on television. Do a search on YouTube for “Elizabeth Warren.” The result? “About 221,000 results.”

Third, Warren not only seems to be everywhere, but she also has something to say. As I wrote about Obama, in my book: Both Obama and Ronald Reagan “found themselves in demand as speakers inside and outside their parties. Though Reagan had a sharper wit, a folksier manner, and a more practiced delivery, both he and Obama spoke on behalf of their values in direct, positive and personal ways that connected with listeners.” Warren may be smarter than either of those men, and manages to tell us horrible news about financial institutions  in a way that makes it seem as if there might be an answer.

Fourth, Warren herself is the answer for the problems she raises, problems that most Americans can identify with. Without her, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would not exist. She rightfully should have been that agency’s first director, but Obama chickened out from appointing her, convinced that opposition from banks and Republicans would be too strong for her to be confirmed.

Fifth, as just pointed out, banks and Republicans don’t like Warren. That makes her appealing to Democrats who don’t happen to be bankers, and helps her raise money. Even if she were wishy-washy about the idea of running, she’d be getting a lot of pressure to run.

And finally, a sixth reason we should expect Warren to be a candidate: Her timing will likely never be better. Many said that Obama was running “too soon,” that he should wait four or eight more years to run. I think that his presidency — and the nation — has suffered in some respects because of his lack of experience. But as I have noted, we actually seem to prefer inexperience in our presidential nominees. Someone such as John Kerry or John McCain or Hillary Clinton who has served for a long period of time in government has a record that can be used and distorted by opponents.

Besides, if not now, when? If a Democrat should happen to win the presidency in 2016, that person would probably seek re-election in 2020. The earliest that Warren could run in that case would be in 2024, after she had already served a dozen years in the Senate (assuming she won a second term; if she lost a Massachusetts Senate race she couldn’t be a credible Democratic candidate afterward).

So, there you have it. She’s running. And if I’m wrong, well, I’ll be just like every other political pundit, hoping no one remembers later.

 

 

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Women | Tagged: , , , , , | 28 Comments »

Pre-Memorial Day 2012 presidential election projection: Obama wins handily

Posted by James McPherson on May 23, 2012

“The 2012 presidential election is going to be close. Very close. Incredibly close. Like Al-Gore-vs-George-W.-Bush close.”

That’s how Chris Cillizza, a Washington Post political pundit whose work I respect, started a post for his highly respected blog, The Fix, yesterday. He is far from alone in his proclamation that the election will be tight; similar statements in recent weeks have come from the likes of the Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times,  U.S. News and countless talking heads on cable news programs. On the other hand Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi says most journalists think Obama has it won, but have good reason to say otherwise:

It’s our job in the media to try to drum up interest in this. We have to sell advertising, we have to get viewers and get ratings. We can’t just come out and say that this thing is over six months before it happens. So, there is a strong incentive among all pundits, including me, to come out and say, ‘this could happen, that could happen.’ Romney has a legitimate chance. It’s just a subconscious pull that works on all of us in the media that drives us to make those kinds of comments, I think.

You can use the links above to read the various arguments for yourself, and I responded to Cizzilla in the comments section of his blog yesterday, but today I decided it was worth expanding here why I think Cillizza and those other “close elections” folks are wrong. The 2012 presidental election won’t be close, and unless something significant happens to change the tide Obama will win.

I know this is too early in the process to make such pronouncements. After all, despite what Fox News and MSNBC would have you believe, most people won’t pay any serious attention to the campaigns until at least the conventions this summer, or later. (Some never will pay much attention, but will show up to vote regardless, a whole other issue.) A lot can happen between now and November. We might go to war in Iraq, or see things turn dramatically worse in Afghanistan. Worldwide economic collapse or some form of disaster may make U.S. elections irrelevant. The U.S. might be embarrassed in the Olympics, which Fox News will blame on Obama. Stephen Colbert might agree to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate. Joe Biden might kiss Jeremiah Wright on the mouth while standing on an American flag and holding a Qur’an. Congress might do something constructive. Space aliens might attack–or simply give their support to Romney. Less likely, Romney might figure out a way to talk to regular people. So, in fact, no one KNOWS what will happen in the election.

I have alluded previously to the fact that I thought Obama would win handily in 2012, whether he deserves to or not. I pointed out that the GOP Congressional victories of 2010 would likely help, and with tongue firmly planted in cheek, my reasons have included bad graphic design by the Romney folks and horse racing’s Triple Crown. Now I’ll offer some more serious reasons that nervous folks shouldn’t waste beautiful summer days agonizing over presidential politics. (If you still want to get worked up about politics, get involved locally or at the state level, where you might actually make a difference.)

Lots of people can provide arguments for why Obama might lose, and some on talk radio and on blogs act as if an Obama defeat is a certainty. But today I’ll take the opportunity to point out that it’s not just me who thinks those people are misguided–EVERYONE who has meaningful data seems to think Obama will win. Yahoo! predicted back in February that Obama would win in a landslide. Those who say Romney will be our next president seem to be basing their “predictions” on wishful thinking, such as that expressed by usually wrong Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and washed-up political hack Dick Morris. Let’s look at some electoral maps.

If you count states that are certain to go for either candidate, along with those that “likely” will, 270towin.com has Obama gaining 217 votes, Romney, 190, with just 130 undecided. The undecided votes represent just eight states, which explains why both candidates have been (and will be) spending so much of their time in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina. That 217-190 count sounds close, and it is–but that seems to be the best possible picture for Romney at this point, other than the interactive map offered by the Washington Post (with analysis by Cillizza). That map gives Obama 196 “solid” and 41 “leaning” electoral votes, compared to 170 and 21 for the challenger, with 110 undecided.

Other maps give Obama an even bigger margin. For example, Real Clear Politics has Obama leading 227-170, with 141 (11 states) as toss-ups. In that case the president needs just 43 more electoral votes, with numerous different ways to get there. Romney needs 100, virtually guaranteeing that he needs to win both Ohio and Florida–and still needs a lot of help elsewhere. Electoral-vote.com has Obama winning easily, with 253 votes already declared “strongly Democratic,” 32 as “weak Democratic,” and 73 as “barely Democratic.” The Intrade Prediction Market (likely to be wildly inaccurate at this point because of limited participation) has it 250-146 for Obama, with 142 outstanding. And “Blogging Caesar“–who seems to be a conservative and who claims to have an outstanding prediction record–at electionprojection.com has Obama by a landslide, 303-235.

Again, it’s early and much could change. But if anyone has real numbers or meaningful data that seem to predict a Romney win, I haven’t come across them. And Obama seems to have more options to reach 270 electoral votes than Romney does. If you have evidence to the contrary, I hope you’ll share it. Closer elections are more interesting, which is why the media have an interest in acting as if this one will be tight. And because close elections make it easier to raise money, neither party will tell you before election day that this one seems to be wrapped up.

Still, as even a Fox News contributor pointed out a couple of weeks ago, “The bottom line is that President Obama’s path to electoral victory seems clear.” So there you have it–feel free to ignore the summer “close election” hype. Rather than sending your hard-earned 10 bucks to a presidential candidate, use that money to take your kids out for ice cream.

Memorial Day update: Here’s another “poll of polls” that indicates it will be tough for Obama to lose: polltrack.com.

Posted in History, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

Palin for president? Who’ll give her a hand?

Posted by James McPherson on February 8, 2010

2010-02-07-palinhandsmaller1.jpg     2010-02-07-palinhandclose.jpg

You have to “hand” it to Sarah Palin–she does know how to stay in the public eye, in large part by bashing the same masochistic media that have made her a media darling. I’ll miss hearing what John Murtha had to say about her (though, on a side note, I don’t think Dems will suffer near as much as Pennsylvania does from the loss the perhaps-corrupt pork king Murtha, despite his willingness to be blunt when others in his party cowered).

Yesterday, on her favorite media outlook outside of Facebook, Palin suggested that she might run for president in 2012. That probably sent yet another chill through scared Republicans and overly paranoid Democrats, while raising the hopes of folks like me. I’d place big money on Obama’s teleprompted speeches over whatever folksy, disjointed ramblings Palin might generate, and the opportunity to hear more from Palin–while watching her split Republicans even further–might make the next presidential election season more interesting than the corporate-funded semi-downer I now expect.

And what do you want to bet that if she runs, “populist” Palin will be heavily funded by the oil companies and insurance companies that now continually shaft her Tea Party constituency, a constituency that worries more about Obama birthplace conspiracies and fictional national security concerns than about how they’ll take care of their child if the kid happens to contract a serious illness?

Right now Palin gets a high percentage of her donations from small donors. But if she should ever been seen as a credible candidate, I predict that Big Oil and Big Pharma will jump to the top of the list.

Next day: Chris Cillizza offers an interesting take on Palin and her use of soundbites.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Predictably ‘shocking’ Brown win makes Dems blue, but election’s meaning far from black & white

Posted by James McPherson on January 20, 2010

“In a stunning upset that reshaped the U.S. political landscape…” “… an upset victory of epic proportions…” “… one of the biggest political upsets in modern history…” Yeah, sure. Yawn.

Reactions from both sides of the political aisle after yesterday’s Massachusetts election were as predictable as they were meaningless. Lots of celebrating on one side, much gnashing of teeth on the other. Many on both sides predict/hope/fear that Congressional health care reform may be dead. (Though he also overstates the “stunning upset” angle, Chris Cillizza offers a good review of winners and losers.)

Maybe with an electorate as uninvolved as ours (and no, religiously watching Fox News or MSNBC, an activity likely to make voters stupider rather than politically smarter, doesn’t count as political involvement), we deserve to have such an abysmal health care system. Besides, it appeared that any health care plan coming out of Congress was going to do far more for insurance companies than for most Americans with poor health care.

Still, I hope the surprise voiced by so many “experts” in politics and the media over Brown’s victory is posturing on their part, and that they’re not really dumb enough to be shocked. If they are, it again raised the question of why they’re considered “experts.” In fact, Brown’s victory over Martha Coakley falls short of shocking for several reasons:

  • Though he’s a conservative in a blue state, Brown comes across as someone personally far more like Barack Obama than Dick Cheney, and he downplayed his Republican ties while raising funds in Obama-like fashion. While he may think like Sarah Palin and the Tea Party crowd (and gladly takes their money), he doesn’t say it out loud. He’ll probably end up as a moderate (and definitely not a “family values” icon), just to guarantee his future electability.
  • Coakley ran the worst campaign of anyone since, well, John McCain. She didn’t much seem to want the position.
  • Massachusetts isn’t as blue as some people keep pretending. Yes, Ted Kennedy was a god there–but then the same is true to a lesser extent of almost all longterm incumbents who bring lots of pork and attention to their home states. But keep in mind, this is the same state that elected Mitt Romney–perhaps the most credible 2012 GOP presidential candidate–as its governor.
  • The party in power typically loses midterm elections. And even though it came earlier than most, this was a midterm election. Incidentally, Brown will have to run again in 2012, when the turnout (because it’s a presidential election year) will be much higher.
  • The 60-vote Democratic majority in the Senate was a freak event–and, considering the conservatism of many of those Dems, largely meaningless except as a further example of how stupidly undemocratic the U.S. Senate is. By the way, even if they should win a majority in 2010 (my prediction: they won’t), those conservatives who think they’ll achieve any major legislative goals under the current system are delusional. The system works only for those who exemplify the “party of no.”
  • Finally, the result is unsurprising because American politics in general (including the politics of Barack Obama) are so conservative. But then I’ve devoted much of a book to that issue.

Posted in History, Journalism, Personal, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »