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 and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Rick Santorum’

Excited about Obama vs. Romney?

Posted by James McPherson on January 3, 2012

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: As I predicted even before Obama was formally elected in 2008, the 2012 presidential election will be a contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Or more likely, a three-way race involving Obama, Romney and Voter Indifference. Unfortunately I later chickened out on my Romney prediction, and have wavered since then–stating on the radio and elsewhere that Romney had the best chance of beating Obama, but probably couldn’t win over enough evangelicals and Tea Party members to win the GOP nomination.

So assuming that Mitt will win the nomination, we can determine that another prediction in that October 2008 post also was accurate, that “the Religious Right will continue to decline in influence”–after all, many of evangelicals will end up voting for a Mormon over a Christian (though same may still insist they’re choosing a Mormon over a Muslim). Likewise, the Tea Party effect has apparently waned, so however much we may have enjoyed the loony antics of this Republican primary race, we may have fewer interesting characters getting serious consideration in 2012 Congressional races than we saw two years ago.

Of course tonight the three cable news networks are devoting all of their time to the Iowa Republican Caucus, trying to act as if it matters. Perhaps they really think it does, though I’m giving them–even Megyn Kelly on Fox News–the benefit of the doubt, assuming they’re smart enough to know better. But if they don’t put on the pseudo-breathless political horserace act, they know that no one other than media critics and political junkies will watch.

Maybe viewers would mostly tune out anyway, keeping in mind how few (thankfully) actually watch cable news regularly. Fox News likes to brag about how its talking heads draw bigger audiences than do those on either CNN or MSNBC, but that’s a bit like claiming to be the most popular hooker in church. All of the traditional network nightly news programs have dropped considerably, but NBC, ABC and CBS news shows all get far better ratings than anything on Fox News. And when it comes to cable, the top five networks are USA, the Disney Channel, ESPN, TNT and the once-credible, now badly misnamed, History Channel.

Of those top five, only ESPN offers anything resembling news. And its high standing simply demonstrates the key point of sports columnist’s Norman Chad’s outstanding column of this week. Even if you’re not a sports fan (and especially if you are), I encourage you to read the piece, in which Chad points out, “We spend more money on stadiums than schools,” and “At our institutions of higher learning, we care more about basketball than biology.”

Chad also writes: “Think about this: We have been at war somewhere in the world since 2001 — at war — and that gets less scrutiny than an average NFL game. For real. Buccaneers-Falcons is dissected in detail much more than U.S.-Afghanistan; that’s an NFC divisional game weighed against an international armed conflict.”

Back to the Iowa Caucus: Some may argue that Rick Santorum’s relatively strong showing means something. But that would be true only if Iowa had been significant in any election since 1976. But Iowa doesn’t matter–just ask John McCain, who finished fourth there four years ago.

Romney will be the GOP nominee, and he may even win. Looking at today’s Republican party, though, I seriously doubt it. More likely is that my next trip to Washington, D.C., will correspond with Obama’s next inauguration. And chances are, I’ll watch it on a hostel TV again, just as I did in 2009. With luck, maybe Chief Justice John Roberts will get the words right this time.

A final word about the Republicans who might end up voting for Romney. My favorite recent political quote comes from a music professor I won’t name because the words come from an email: “If you were for Michelle Bachman, before you were for Rick Perry, before you were for Herman Cain, before you were for Newt Gingrich, before you were for Rick Santorum–mainly because you were against Mitt Romney before you were for him–do you waive your right to complain about flip-flopping? For all time?”

Faced with that quandry, I suspect many voters will simply stay home, helping the Obama machine win again.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 17 Comments »