Stop Talking About 2016!

by Randy Shaw, 2012-12-11

President Obama has not even been sworn in for his second term and the media is already focusing on the 2016 election. The Huffington Post claims Hillary Clinton enjoys “record popularity” and “wide support” for a 2016 candidacy. MSNBC reports on a poll showing that 57% of Democrats would back Clinton as the Party’s 2016 nominee. Longtime Clinton ally James Carville insists on a national talk show that “90%” of Democrats want Clinton to run, Newt Gingrich predicts on Meet the Press that Republicans could not beat Clinton in 2016, and the New York Times weighs in with a long front page story on what Clinton may do in the next few years to position herself for a 2016 run. Other than the “fiscal cliff” and isolated coverage of immigration reform, the nation’s media elite seem less interested in the President’s 2013 agenda than in speculating about his successor.

Americans may “hate” politics, but the media cannot get enough of it. Since Obama’s re-election we have been deluged with stories not simply about Hillary Clinton, but also about Republicans Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush positioning themselves for runs in 2016.

For the elite media, it’s all about politics and personalities, not policies and programs. The latter are too complex, and involve the unemployed, unhealthy and ill-housed, people that most of the DC-based media do not know and do not meet at cocktail parties.

The elite media is concerned with climate change, but that story is “complicated” and requires a level of expertise that the standard pundits lack. Better to bring on James Carville to promote Hillary’s 2016 run---even if one has to laugh at his claim that “90%" of Democrats want Hillary in 2016 since you know he said the same in 2005 about Clinton’s 2008 race.

The media even trotted out Newt Gingrich to discuss Clinton in 2016. As Paul Hogarth has reported, “in 2009, after voters decisively put a Democratic President – and nearly 60% Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress – the most frequent guest on NBC’s Meet the Press was Newt Gingrich." Now Meet the Press has Gingrich on to talk about the 2016 race.

As Clinton-obsessed columnists like the NY Times’ Maureen Dowd chide Republicans for the Party’s lack of diversity, they ignore their own role as wealthy white wannabee king and queen makers for the next Democratic Party presidential nominee. It reflects their own disconnection from the crises facing millions of Latino and African-American families in 2013.

Post Fiscal-Cliff America

Imagine if the media approached the problems affecting millions of Americans as it does a future presidential contest or the impending “fiscal cliff.”

The news would consist of hourly updates from homeless people about when and if they would finally get housing, and reports from unemployed job seekers on the status of their search. We would hear from teachers waiting for their dilapidated classrooms to be renovated, students wondering about how they can find the money to pay next semester’s tuition, or low-wage Walmart or fast food workers trying to figure out how they can survive on so little money.

There is great drama in all of these stories. Far more drama than in a “fiscal cliff” that means little to those who have already fallen off. And far more suspense than in trying to stimulate interest in who will be President in January 2017.

If the media highlighted these real life dramas, millions would eagerly await news on government actions to address these crises. And if no actions were taken, public anger would be great.

But the traditional media is not in business to stimulate mass anger at social and economic injustices. That’s why it prioritizes personalities and politics over policies, and focuses attention on an election four years from now rather than examining what the 2012 election can accomplish.


Randy Shaw is the author of The Activist’s Handbook and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century.