(Roy Edroso of Runnin’ Scared here. Even gadflies have to rest their wings sometimes, so Ward Harkavy is on vacation and I’m filling in as best I can for a few days. )
Times of London: “Republican John McCain Leads Election Poll”
We prefer the British account to the American variants because it communicates a believable bewilderment: “Why is this 71-year-old Republican in such a ‘change’ election year doing so well?”
We could say, “Because he’s white” and be done with it. But let’s give America some credit. As the Times notes, McCain has unleashed a “barrage of negative advertisements” against Obama, of the sort to which Americans are trained to respond: that is, they not only imply that the opposing candidate is a numbskull, they imply that anyone who would vote for such a man must be a numbskull. This hits Americans right in their insecurities, and may be an even more powerful force for McCain than racism.
We must also remember that the “liberal media” is also helpful to McCain’s cause. For example, in yesterday’s New York Times — heart of the lib conspiracy! — we had David Brooks explaining that John McCain’s people didn’t want to go negative on Obama (he “started with grand ideas about breaking the mold of modern politics”) but was forced to it by the “hostile environment around them.” That’s the media environment Brooks is talking about, the very environment in which Brooks is one of a handful of major players — and he’s far from the only one of them who does what he can to give Maverick a hand.
Face it: if a powerful consortium of American media companies had its heart set on electing Obama, you would already have been implanted with the impression that John McCain is a lovable but hopelessly senile candidate, like the coach on “Cheers.” You would be allowed to like him, but you would certainly be discouraged from voting for him. But a lot of Americans think that they know how great McCain is despite the media’s treatment of him. Ignorance this profound is neither natural nor an accident.