George Graham

Polls, Pundits and the Press Were Losers in the Primaries

When I was learning to be a journalist, the golden rule was objectivity. Our aim was to give the facts as we knew them, leaving readers (and listeners) to form their own opinions. You might argue that objectivity is impossible, that the reporter’s bias will come through, regardless. But at least we tried – most of us, anyway.

Journalism has changed drastically along the way, and now everything you read or hear is “slanted.” A lot of it is undisguised propaganda, and anyone with modest intelligence should be able to recognize it as such. Some of it is generated to mold public opinion and hundreds of millions are being spent to get that stuff to you.

But a lot of the “news” is slanted simply to create a “story.”  And I think that kind of news writing may be the most harmful.

A “Daily Beast” report on yesterday’s primary elections is a glaring example of bias for the sake of bias. I can think of no other reason for the report’s absurd distortions and flawed logic.

Written by someone named Mark McKinnon, the report struggles to support the thesis that voters were intent on “shaking up the good old boy network,” and “throwing the bums out.”

Somehow, the writer managed to make Blanche Lincoln the poster girl for the anti-incumbency argument.

Blanche Lincoln!

Here’s an excerpt from this ridiculous report:

Lincoln is an example of a moderate Democrat who appeals to centrists. She has been a remarkably effective legislator, achieving ranking status on committees important to Arkansas like agriculture and governing from the center. Lincoln took a courageous and principled stand opposing card check and almost paid for it with a union-backed primary opponent.

Say what?

Sorry to burst your bubble Mark, but Ms. Lincoln is no “outsider.” She has been a senator for the past 12 years, and she has reliably supported corporate interests. I doubt that takes a lot of “courage.” To me, she is exactly the kind of career politician that provoked the anti-incumbent rage the media make so much fuss about.

And I don’t think anyone voted for Blanche Lincoln because she was a woman. Or Carly Fiorina. Or Meg Whitman. Or Sharron Angle. Or Nikki Haley. It’s true they all are women. But I am sure that’s not why they did so well in the primaries.

I just can’t see anyone going into the voting booth intent on getting rid of “the good old boy’s network” and voting for a candidate just because she wasn’t a man.

The way I see last night’s primary results, they debunked the chatter about America’s anti-incumbency mood and how this will affect November’s mid-term elections.

Here’s a revealing except from the Time Magazine analysis of the primary results:

In fact, a surprising number of establishment candidates survived challenges in a season where Washington’s blessing often felt more like a curse. South Carolina State Rep. Nikki Haley prevailed in an ugly primary, which included not one but two accusations of adultery, to win 49% of vote for the GOP nomination for governor (though she still faces a run off she looks likely to win). Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman  handily won the GOP gubernatorial nomination (after spending $80 million on the primary, it would’ve been an incredibly expensive loss). Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina beat out a moderate and a Tea Party challenger in the Golden State’s GOP primary to take on Senator Barbara Boxer. And Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat, looks likely to survive the toughest primary the eight-term incumbent has seen in a decade.

The truth is that politics is complicated, and people vote the way they do for any number of reasons. You could look at last night’s results as an illustration of the power of money. Not only did Meg Whitman spend $80 million from her own egg-and-butter jar, but Carly Fiona also found $5.5 million under the sofa cushions to help her campaign.

Or you could look at it the way UPI did:

Celebrity and incumbency trumped Tea Party enthusiasm Tuesday in New Jersey’s Republican congressional primaries, election  returns suggested. In the 3rd district in South Jersey, Jim Runyan, a former lineman with the Philadelphia Eagles, defeated Justin Murphy, a Tea Party candidate, and will take on Democrat John Adler, a one-term incumbent, in November.

Yes, the vaunted Tea Party didn’t do so well, after all. Turns out the polls and pundits were off the mark.  But you can bet last night’s setback won’t affect the spurious chatter that passes for political analysis today.

About the author

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com