Thursday, February 07, 2008

When All Else Fails, Just Make Stuff Up

I haven't been cruising over to Media Matters recently (more fool me), but I just came away with a nugget that pertains directly to this post yesterday on the issue of voter turnout, and the disparity between Republican and Democratic turnout.
Summary: MSNBC's Chris Matthews suggested to Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean that he should be concerned about the party's lack of broad appeal, noting polls showing a large number of "college graduates" and voters of a "high economic and social echelon" voting in the primaries. Matthews added, "I just wonder where regular people are in this." But Matthews didn't mention that, according to CNN, "voters are turning out for the Democratic primaries in number[s] that absolutely shatter previous records." Matthews also failed to mention the record turnout in an earlier discussion on the subject with Tim Russert.

First, please note the absolute stupidity of part of Matthews' framing device - "I just wonder where regular people are in this" - as if, somehow, highly educated people aren't regular (being highly educated, I will swear in court that I have not needed a purgative in quite a while). This kind of mindlessness is part of Matthews' shtick, of course. These are the last dregs and final, fading ghosts of Richard Nixon's "silent majority" (a concept sociologist Andrew Greeley actually claimed was real, based upon ethnic diversity and class solidarity). We have here the kind of subtle, coded language of class warfare that we have been hearing for decades and is not only stale, but demonstrably false.

The whole idea of "elites vs. people" ("regular people") has no more reality than the tired notion of "Reagan Democrats". It is not a "myth" but an out-and-out falsehood. It is, more than anything else, a kind of right-wing populist trope; the better educated an individual is, the less attached to everyday concerns he or she is, and therefor that person's political opinions are not as important, or as vital, or something, as that of uneducated, working-class folks.

The larger point, however, is the total elimination of a not unimportant fact - Democratic turnout has been generally higher than Republican turnout. Polling data has also suggested that Democrats are far more enthusiastic about their choices than Republican voters. Yet, neither Matthews not Russert acknowledge this fact. So, they ask Dean a question based upon bias and preconceptions rather than actual information journalists would use to frame a question regarding an issue as important as voter turnout and responsiveness to a political campaign.

Virtual Tin Cup

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