Xark began as a group blog in June 2005 but continues today as founder Dan Conover's primary blog-home. Posts by longtime Xark authors Janet Edens and John Sloop may also appear alongside Dan's here from time to time, depending on whatever.
The Republicans are going to get really desperate in the next three
weeks as it dawns on them that this could be a landslide election in
the Democrats favor. The inter-party fighting in Republican ranks is
already clear from the House Republican rebellion on the bailout bill.
It’s going to get more ferocious, because the right wing is no longer
fighting for the 2008 election, they are battling for control of the
party machine and its money for 2009 and beyond.
Things could get very, very odd as the GOP begins to deal with the reality of this election. This is the end of an era in American politics that, in its various forms, dates back to 1980. Losing an election is one thing, but the Republican Party and its paladins are headed for the political wilderness as a generational shift pushes them into the margins.
Which means things could get very, very strange in the next month.
I haven't seen this mentioned in the debate reax this morning, but last night I kept thinking that there are a lot of already anxious white people in this country who could go either way in this election but harbor a basic discomfort (not hatred) with the black people in their lives. Hence: If McCain can succeed at coming across as roughly equal to Obama in other respects, being a white grandfather could get him the comfort-food vote.
There's been a lot of discussion of body language and composure. Snap-polling among indies suggests Obama won. But if you look at last night's debate through the comfort-food filter, then I think McCain won.
Tie goes to the white guy who appears legitimate and doesn't act like a spaz.
Editor's note: In my final week at the local daily (I took the buyout on Aug. 22), the editor of the Faith & Values section asked me to write an essay about the values questions implicit in the changing face of mass media journalism. It was the final thing I wrote for the newspaper. This morning the editor who requested the piece wrote to say that senior editors had chosen not to run it and that it was mine to publish as I wished. Looking back at it again after this month's market meltdown, it's obvious that the media isn't the only sector in the midst of an epic interregnum...--dc
The Media Interregnum
Interregnum: The time during which a throne is vacant between two successive reigns or regimes.
“For our purposes, the notion of interregnum refers to those hinges in time when the old order is dead, but the new direction has not been determined. Quite often, the general populace and many of its leaders do not understand that the transition is taking place and so a great deal of tumult arises as the birth pangs of a new social and political order.” — Jon Taplin, March 31, 2008
BY DAN CONOVER What is "good?"
For student journalists at the University of North Carolina in the 1980s, that question came with a simple answer: Good was what our instructor Jim Shumaker said was good.
Shumaker, the real-life model for the comic-strip character Shu, was a walking indoctrination into a culture of journalism that once held sway in America: Confident, straight-talking, blue-collar, irreverent, abrasive — but also undeniably talented and privately idealistic. Attending his class was like receiving writing instruction from Rick Blaine, the hero of “Casablanca.” What he believed, I believed.
Shumaker died eight years ago, but I didn’t truly confront his ghost until 2004, the year many of us from the newspaper tribe first peered into a void at the heart of 21st century mass media and found ourselves staring back in quiet, desperate confusion. There were things we believed to be true about journalism and America and the world in those days, things so fundamental that we called them self-evident. But in 2004, and rather ominously, they just weren’t working.
This semester, with Bruce Barry, I’ve been team teaching a course called “Mass Mediated Politics: Images and Issues.”The course, a version of which we taught four years ago, attempts to provide a critical look at elections through the eyes of media criticism.Because we pack the course with a great number of guest lectures—from people who make political ads to pollsters to netroots activists to campaign mangers—I end up learning far a great deal more than I normally do when I teach.I’m a fairly good media/rhetorical critic, to be sure, but I know very little about the actual practice of a campaign.
Four weeks into the semester, Barry and I have noticed an “emotional” pattern emerging in the class, a pattern we witnessed the last time we taught it as well.The students—most of whom are political enthusiasts of some degree—began the course feeling very optimistic and bright eyed about electoral politics.About this point in the semester, however, that feeling has taken something of a downward swing.Where there was forward looking optimism, there is now disillusionment and pessimism.
As one guest speaker after another has explained the ways in which candidates are shaped and “controlled” (to a degree) by their campaigns, as well as the ways issues are “created” and brought to prominence, the students get more and more disillusioned.As every seasoned veteran of big time political campaigns tells stories about how campaigns “really” work, the students go from thinking that politics is transparent to finding it misty and illusory.It is as if their worst fears are being realized.Politics, as they are coming to see it through the eyes of our speakers, is more a game of tactics and strategies than one of presenting the truth and having the best ideas win.
On the one hand, its exclusive isn't all that new: Brown, whose committee assignments give him clout over the U.S. Forest Service, managed earlier this year to get about $1,000 knocked off a $5,700 fine he'd been assessed for setting the Francis Marion National Forest on fire in 2004. The local paper wrote about that in June.
But here's what The State's Washington reporter did: He filed a request for documents related to Brown's case against the Forest Service. He interviewed Bush political appointee Mark Rey, the undersecretary of agriculture for natural resources, and got him to describe what happened. And The State had the guts to run the story now, even though Brown and his partisan supporters will no doubt complain to their bosses that the whole thing was "timed" to hurt him before the election.
The facts in the story are enough to make any fair-minded person cringe: Our Congressman set a national forest on fire by doing a lousy job of controlling a controlled burn on some of his rural property; when he couldn't get the fine reduced, he filed a frivolous countersuit against the forest service for damages in an alleged incident years before; and by the time his case finally reached resolution, his $1,000 reduction wound up costing taxpayers about $100,000 in Forest Service staff time.
But here's what's really great about the piece: It actually gives the reader a glimpse of the petty little tyrant glaring out at the world from that empty Congressional suit.