Bob's Links and Rants

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Sunday, March 14, 2004

So sad
I just watched the CNN Presents special on the Dean campaign. (It was shown last night, but I recorded it on the TiVo and watched it tonight.) If you've been reading the blog for a while, you know that I wasn't a fan of Dean's. But to watch that show documenting the dreams of so many Americans being raised sky-high, only to be crushed by the media and party machines, was very depressing.

It's hard for me to fight off the impression that the crushing of the spirit was part of the plan all along. The big-money folks wanted Kerry against Bush all along, since they win either way. But Kerry wouldn't have survived even as long as Dean did if he had been the frontrunner all through last year. Since Dean had a good thing going with the fiery talk and the Internet fundraising and meetups, the media decided to play along. Put him on the cover of the major magazines, get his name on the front pages and on the evening news broadcasts a lot. Get lots of idealistic people, including many of the millions who marched against the war last year, interested and excited about Dean. Let them think that they really were going to change the country. (Also, take them away from the real anti-war candidate, Kucinich, but that's another rant.) A lot of them were young people who hadn't been a part of a campaign before, and they were thrilled to think that they were a part of something big. Give them their big shining moment in early December: President Gore's endorsement, and huge leads in the polls.

From then on, the media and the party turned against Dean. Instead of giving him good press no matter what he did, they gave him bad press. When he said something obviously true, such as that the capture of Saddam Hussein didn't make us safer, the media jumped all over it as though he had pissed on the true cross or something. Kerry, to his eternal shame, jumped all over that comment, saying it showed that Dean wasn't fit to be president (one of the many reasons I can't stand Kerry). The media kept talking about "electability," suggesting without any real reason that Kerry was more "electable" than Dean. And so many people were so media-led that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Iowa caucuses turned into The Match Game, where you win if you pick what most people say. And just in case those results from Iowa weren't enough to finish off Dean, the media picked one film clip from his speech that night and played it over and over and over. The CNN Presents piece showed video of the "Dean scream" from a handheld camera behind the stage--the crowd was cheering, and you couldn't even hear Dean.

CNN focused mostly on Dean's campaign manager, Joe Trippi. From what they showed, I liked Trippi a lot.

Anyhow, I think a lot of people in the Kucinich, Dean and Clark campaigns were hoping that what they were taught in ninth-grade civics might actually be true: that the people can make a difference in choosing who runs the country. The rise and fall of the Dean campaign was, I think, a lesson from the rich and powerful to the rest of us that that just isn't so. They decide who runs the country (and the world). We don't.