Monday, June 16, 2008

I Won't Be Coming Home Again

TalkLeft had an interesting post about a story in the The New Yorker, discussing requests by MSNBC executives to moderator Keith Olbermann to back off his sharp criticism of Senator Hillary Clinton:

At MSNBC, Phil Griffin was worried, and with good reason. The average “Countdown” viewer is fifty-nine years old, and forty-five per cent of the viewers are women, presumably Democratic—a fair description of a Hillary Clinton supporter. Griffin believed that Olbermann was beginning to alienate his core audience, and asked him to ease up a bit on Clinton, and possibly even make some conciliatory gesture to the Clinton camp.

Unfortunately, Phil Griffin is making the same mistake that many Democratic officials are making with respect to the presidential race. He assumes that angry Clinton supporters will just “come home”:

But, just as Obama must work to win Clinton supporters for the fall campaign, Phil Griffin has to repair a fractured audience base, a portion of which saw sexism in his network’s Clinton coverage and vowed to boycott MSNBC. Griffin knows that some of that anger is aimed at his star anchor. “It was, like, you meet a guy and you fall in love with him, and he’s funny and he’s clever and he’s witty, and he’s all these great things,” Griffin said of the relationship between Olbermann and the Clinton supporters among his viewers. “And then you commit yourself to him, and he turns out to be a jerk and difficult and brutal. And that is how the Hillary viewers see him. It’s true. But I do think they’re going to come back. There’s nowhere else to go.

I stopped listening to (via podcast, I live overseas) to Keith Olbermann more than a year ago because his anger became too much for me. At the end of every show, I was angry, frustrated, and pessimistic about the future of my country. Countdown was not my home before the election cycle and certainly won’t be returning to it. But MSNBC was my home. It has been my preferred new sources for many years and was the first news source I would check every morning.

I think that taking for granted that Clinton supporters will just flock back to Keith Olbermann and MSNBC is as unwise as Democrats assuming that Democrats will rally around the nominee. From E.J. Dionne, Jr at the Washington Post:

In a report released yesterday, Gallup found that where McCain was winning 85 percent of self-identified Republicans, Obama was winning only 78 percent of Democrats.

Yet Obama led McCain 48 percent to 42 percent in the survey, which was conducted June 5-10. Obama enjoyed a seven-point advantage among independents, but Gallup noted that even when independents were excluded, Obama still had a five-point lead because Democrats now outnumber Republicans 37 to 28 percent. When independents were asked their partisan leanings, the Democratic advantage reached 13 points.

In 2004, Kerry carried 89 percent of the vote among self-identified Democrats, according to the network exit poll, but Democrats and Republicans accounted for equal shares of the electorate. President Bush won with an even larger share (93 percent) of supporters of his own party.

That was Friday. This is today:

Voters are closely divided between Barack Obama and John McCain in Gallup Poll Daily tracking conducted June 12-14, with 44% of national registered voters favoring Obama for president and 42% backing McCain.


Although the margin between Obama and McCain is now similar to what it was in the last few weeks of the Democratic primary race, the structure of the race looks slightly different than at any other time this year as a result of the relatively high percentage of voters -- 15% -- not favoring either major-party candidate. This includes 7% of voters who say they are undecided and 8% who say they will not vote for either candidate (including 1% who volunteer they will vote for another specific candidate).

As a result, the percentages of Americans now supporting Obama and McCain are near the lowest seen for either candidate since Gallup Poll Daily tracking on the Obama-McCain matchup started in early March, and well below the high of 48% achieved by each at them at various times.

I submit that many of the 8% are Clinton supporters who won’t vote for Obama, but can’t bring themselves to support John McCain. These voters are up for grabs and John McCain has been making a major play for them:

At the beginning of this process, in January 2007, I promised myself that I would support the Democratic nominee no matter what. As disgusted as I am with the outcome, I am sticking to the promise and supporting Senator Obama. In a sense, I am “coming home” to the Democratic Party. But I won’t be doing the same for MSNBC.

Frankly, I don’t care if my not watching MSNBC has any practical effect on its ratings. For me, this is about my dignity. My candidate was drug through the mud—a victim of sexism and accused of racism and narcissistic ambition—while prominent Democrats stood silent, snickered, or sometimes, participated in the piling on. I’ll swallow my pride and support the party, but I’m drawing the line at where I get my news.

The behavior of the MSNBC “commentariat” was deplorable and they have largely been unapologetic about their behavior. In fact, Keith Olbermann excoriated Katie Couric when she suggested that sexism had reared it’s head in some of the coverage:

I may be forced to come home to the Democratic Party because there is no alternative that does not mean my acting against my own self interest. However, there most assuredly are alternatives to MSNBC, and the mainstream media need to be aware that dissatisfaction with the fourth estate is driving people to find and support alternatives. The internet has provided new platforms for delivering and discussing news. Thumbing his nose at those risks makes Phil Griffin--and MSNBC--as vulnerable as Democrats who assume that the Clinton supporters won't pursue their own at the ballot box.


Post a Comment