If you’ve ever bemoaned the cesspool of gotcha gossip and empty-headed horse-race nattering that is modern political journalism, Kevin Drum has some thoughts on the issue worth considering: maybe we should feel sorry for them!
In fact, as someone who’s worked on the nuts and bolts part of several political campaigns, Drum’s take on just how excruciatingly dull the process can be, especially on the level of “message,” strikes me as pretty dead-on. The way campaigns work isn’t something that anyone involved really wants it to be: it’s just sort of an inevitable competitive outcome of the process. The public loves to hate politicians and their supposed plastic insincerity, but the reality is its mostly the public itself that’s to blame for how politicians act and speak in public. Most politicians are real people and pretty decent for all that, but they live in a culture where reality comes across as fake, and you can only seem real by carefully faking it. The reality of being a modern candidate is a grueling schedule of endless repetition, and the reality of being a political journalist is having to listen to it.
I’m not expecting to find much sympathy for the powerful, but maybe a little less glib bemoaning of the way things are would do us all some good.