Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Great Coming Together and the Phantasm of Democracy

While there may be diversity of aspect in the “top” Democratic Presidential candidates, diversity of perspective is becoming hard to find. The Nevada caucus has marked a turning point in the Presidential campaign - particularly with the debacle of the NBC-MSNBC “debate.”

Coming out of Iowa, Clinton, Edwards, and Obama, seemed to start looking at what was "working" in each other's rhetoric and issue focus. By New Hampshire that rhetoric was starting to merge. By Nevada, virtually all substantial difference had disappeared. However, the convergence was simply due to campaign "learning curves" of what attracts voters. There was big doings behind the scenes.

The so-called "extremists" among the candidates (Gravel and Kucinich) were minimized to the point of invisibility. Then Biden, and Dodd dropped out. Soon to be followed by Richardson. Gravel received a fatal blow with the reporting that he had dropped out of the race as well. Which he had not and has not done. The news to Gravel's continued campaign has been so silenced, that the lie is not even mentioned at this point. Big media was well on its way to making a two-person race. Enter MSNBC and the Democratic Presidential "Debate."

Five candidates were initially invited by NBC to participate in the debate. The criteria? Those candidates who were still active and on the Nevada caucus ballot. The debate on Tuesday January 15th would have shown Clinton, Gravel, Edwards, Kucinich, and Obama. Instead, two active candidates were excluded from participating - Gravel and Kucinich. MSNBC decided to change their criteria for participation from all active candidates to all "viable" candidates - viability as determined by MSNBC.

Kucinich, immediately filed suit against MSNBC for changing the rules and uninviting him. Gravel did not have the campaign resources to go to court (and is miffed at Kucinich for not including him in the court action). A lower court ruled that MSNBC would have to allow Kucinich or cancel the debate. MSNBC appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court. In order to win that appeal, MSNBC had to change their own plans.

Originally, the debate was to be televised on both network and cable channels. In other words, NBC as well as MSNBC would have carried the debate. However, the networks are public access while cable is paid access. In order to win the appeal, the NBC network access had to be canceled. This then excluded not just Kucinich and Gravel, but the non-cable connected. That is largely those with few economic resources and those in rural areas. By eliminating a significant portion of "the public," it also dramatically narrowed whose issues candidates needed to address.

So, the debate starts at a round table with three coiffed candidates smiling at each other and the crowd. It was more like watching a convivial tea party than candidates who were competing to be the Democratic candidate. While part of this "agreement" was due to stealing message and tone from each other's campaigns, it was made a reality by removing the presence of "disruptive" factors - those with a different vision, platform, and plan - Gravel and Kucinich. MSNBC's own report characterized the show as "Democrats play nice."

To the shame of MSNBC and the three candidates present, not one word was mentioned of the exclusion of the candidates. This was made even more obvious by the fact that the Nevada Supreme Court ruling was not made until 45 minutes before the debate was to start. While certainly newsworthy, it also demanded the candidates to acknowledge it even if they had not chosen to boycott the debate because of the exclusion. But no, they actively participated in creating the illusion that they -and only they- were still running for the Democratic nomination.

Once the little tea party was concluded, the anchors of interpretation made their debut - Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews. They too had decided to go along with the phantasm that had been created. One would think that the Nevada Supreme Court ruling would have been both pertinent and newsworthy. However, both "pundits" launched into the dissection of debate without one word regarding the last minute exclusion of Kucinich and Gravel.

All of these actions (and inaction) on the part of both the "top three" Democratic candidates and the corporate media, was the creation of a lie and an undermining of democracy. One might say the fix is in. That all involved were willing to collude to deceive and silence for their own interests, and the public and democratic process be damned.

The events that have transpired so far are a textbook example of how public opinion is shaped, and change undermined. I am both disgusted and disheartened. The fact that all of this has taken place in a virtual media vacuum hides from public knowledge not just what is going on, but that they are being led down the garden path. One might say "business as usual," but there is a lot at stake here. As the "main" candidates essentially become political clones and the power elite interests are served, the people are left to select which "face" they want in the White House. Meanwhile we get a front row seat for the ongoing destruction of a nation.

Also of Interest

Mike Gravel. Why NBC and the DNC Want Me Out of the Debates. Huffington Post.

Gravel invitation to the Nevada debate

How the Nevada Caucuses work

Democratic Party (United States) presidential primaries, 2008.

American Research Group Primaries polling results

NBC un-plugs Kucinich from Presidential debate. Kucinich Campaign.

MSNBC vs. Dennis Kucinich. Amy Goodman. Includes information about MSNBC/GE/Raytheon.

Posted by Rowan Wolf at January 19, 2008 12:50 PM
Comment #243349


Are you really suprised? This is SOP for the two party system. Never allow a voice of challenge to be heard. While I would never vote for any of the 3 “top tier” candidates on the Dem side, and I have several issues with Kucinich and Gravel, they still have the right to express their opinions in open debate. Neither NBC, Hillary, Barack,John, nor anyone else has the right, legal or moral, to tell a registered, active candidate that they are not “viable”. I hope the Democratic base looks at the actions of their “frontrunners” and decides that someone else, someone a bit more in tune with the core principles of the party, fairness, openness to new ideas,etc, might make a better challenger for the Repubs.

Meanwhile, I am going to sit back and laugh my head off at the shenanigans of both parties. As far as I am concerned, neither party has any idea of what to do with the situation in the USA or the world. The only thing they are looking at is the power and glory of being POTUS, and I say a pox on both their houses.

Posted by: Old Grouch at January 19, 2008 1:17 PM
Comment #243350

Rowan, I’m in agreement with your assessement and feelings with all of this. And OG…pretty much with yours, as well. That said, we are still left in this position of inability to make changes in time to save this election cycle anyway.
I’m sitting here trying to see if I can pinpoint where all of this started, and I keep going back to the last fiasco with Bush and the inability to make changes with those election results even after having evidenced all the illegalities that led him to both his tenures in the White House. I’m sure there were more incidents all along for quite some time, that just seems the most notable. It’s human nature to stop beating our heads against immovable forces when it obviosly hurts and we gain nothing from it. Then the apathy either sets in or becomes even greater.
Soooo….identifying the problem is usually the easy part…..fixing it is a lot tougher. Where do we start, and what do we do? Do we wait until our Constitution reads more like bible passages? Or our business transactions are all done with Renminbi? Or we’re sharing space with “other” third-world countries?
I personally believe this is one of the most frightening things we have to deal with, and not because there will be a great loss of life, but of life as we have always known it, and loss of character and stature. We’re at the top of a slippery slope!

Great post, Rowan.

Posted by: Jane Doe at January 19, 2008 1:54 PM
Comment #243355


Get used to this. This is only the beginning of the Mainstream Media’s “Rah-Rah” cheerleading for their favorite candidate(s).

Now that the rest of the media sees that NBC can determine not only the subjects debated, but the candidates that do the debating, look for other networks to include or exclude whoever they choose.

Soon, candidates will have to lobby each and every network just to get some “face time”…kowtow to their every whim just to get a soundbite on the nightly news.

After that, expect every 4 years to see “The NBC Presidential Election”, brought to you by Miller Lite Beer. Competing for viewers will be the candidates personally selected and approved for “You Decide-2010” on CBS brought to you by Meow Mix Cat Food. Whichever network wins the Neilsen Sweeps gets to host and pick the candidates for 2014.

The Mainstream Media has their political agendas and favorite candidates and this is just another way to shove those agendas and candidates down your throat. The only thing you can do is use your remote control…especially the On/Off Volume and Channel Selectors.

Posted by: Jim T at January 19, 2008 5:26 PM
Comment #243360

I do not understand how Gravel and Kucinich can be considered to still be in the race, when they have no delegates on the primary ballot in Illinois. That is what the primaries are for, yes? To get delegates to the convention, right? 5 Richardson delegates are still on the ballot, although you vote for 6. I do not even recall seeing Edwards name on the screen. I like Kucinich and Gravel, but maybe they were just there for the free publicity, which the media saw through. They might be more interested spending time covering people who are actually going to have delegates at the convention where the nomination will occur.

Posted by: ohrealy at January 19, 2008 7:45 PM
Comment #243362

Of course it is the media’s chosen who will be getting the debates, the headlines, the interviews….Edwards attacks large corporations….So what corporation will include him? Only because they still have to but they don’t have to give him coverage. The Iowa Caucus was a good example. Edwards was in the lead THROUGH the 1st 25% of the vote but it was reported to be a “dead heat” between Hillary and Barack. He gets in ONLY when he says something loud enough, if Olbermann does an occassional interview, or as filler in the early morning….Kucinich is no radical either. He just wants to end the friggin’ illegal mess in IRAQ, as does Edwards but Hillary and Barack still wnat to play in the oil fields a while longer.
If one determines that only the radical gets snubbed then Huckabee should be getting ignored. He IS the most radical of the entire field…declaring that the Constitution must be rewritten in the name of HIS GOD….He is a Creationist believing the world to be only 5,000 years old and has declared war on the woman’s right to choose…misnamed “Pro-Life” (Every one of the “Pro-Life” candidates is promoting the continuation of the slaughter in IRAQ….REAL PRO-LIFE, aren’t they? One must be carried to term but once born, one can starve in the streets or die from lack of healthcare or get killed in an illegal occupation of a foreign country)
This is a 2 party system alright, TV is one and NEWSPRINT the other

Posted by: Cosmic Surfer at January 19, 2008 10:15 PM
Comment #243369

Any sort of choice requires a narrowing of options. The first thing you need to do is eliminate any of the truly unacceptable options and then increasingly hone in on the characteristics of the viable options.

People like Kucinich are not acceptable options. He is too weird and too extreme for a normal American voter. It is no surprise that he gets marginalized because he is a marginal candidate.

I think we have to remember that everybody is entitled to his opinion, but not all opinions are equally valid. Some are just wrong. In my ordinary job, I have to make decisions with input from many people. I try to take all views into account, but clearly some people consistently exhibit better judgment than others. They tend to dominate the decision. This should surprise nobody and it is not unfair. Complaining about it is like complaining the fastest runners win most of the races.

Edwards was a valid candidate, but he marginalized himself when he went over to the dark side of class war populism. The less informed part of the electorate is full of passionate intensity about this issue, but it is a loser.

The only real complaint Dems might have is that Hillary has been the heir apparent since 2002. I even suspect that they nominated a loser like John Kerry so that she could be in a 2008 race.

She and her impressive machine have annihilated any potential rivals before they could grow. So I think you can blame the Clinton machine for the lack of choice, however even if choice were freely open, Kucinich would not be a valid candidate on planet earth. His views, personality and generally the fact that he is Kucinich had marginalized him, not the Hilary machine.

Posted by: Jack at January 20, 2008 1:51 AM
Comment #243371

Marginal candidates like Kucinich and Gravel tend to blame the media, but they are simply facing public rejection. Gravel is borderline demented. Whether he is “in the race” or not is irrelevant because he has no chance. Kucinich isn’t crazy (I’m glad he was in the early debates), but he never had a base of support. He should be glad he found a tall redhead who is turned on by hobbits.

If anyone has a gripe, it is the second-tier candidates like Joe Biden and Bill Richardson. They might have gone further with more media play and money, but they didn’t have the celebrity to attract either.

Posted by: Woody Mena at January 20, 2008 8:50 AM
Comment #243374

I would win, the argument goes, were it not for all the people conspiring against me…

It’s a losing argument. Better to gracefully accept that you’re representing your own personal politics, and won’t necessarily appeal to everybody, than to egotistically suppose that you’re the next big thing, if only folks weren’t in the way.

And if you don’t like being in the minority? Improve your communications skills, help to build a positive policy record. Work with others. Nobody, popular or not can work alone on these matters.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 20, 2008 11:24 AM
Comment #243377

I must say that I am surprised by some of the comments above. I’ll respond generically here.

We need to narrow the field to “serious” candidates.
1. Folks DO realize that there have been 4 (FOUR) primaries and caucuses (and for Dems Michigan didn’t count)? I do believe that there are 50 states. WHO gets to participate in selecting the candidates if less than 10% of the states get a say? Biden and Dodd actually dropped out after the FIRST caucus.

2. I personally believe that a broad selection of candidates are tremendously important. The “unlikely” candidates are some times (definitely not always) narrow issue candidates. They represent a minority voice and force the candidates and parties to include and address those issues and concerns. Just because we run government by majority rule does not mean that minority voices should silenced. These “unlikely” candidates (and Ron Paul on the Republican side is one as well) offer conceptual and issue challenge to the “front runners and the respective parties as a whole.

IF they receive any type of reasonable coverage AND are included in the debates, then perspectives, issues, and policy options are brought before the American people. I think THAT is important.

I must wonder what is extreme. Are Kucinich, Gravel, and Paul extreme, or they just painted by the press (and their parties) as “extreme.” Both Kucinich and Paul are long term elected representatives of their respected electorates. That would seem to indicate that they are “that” extreme.

Who could tell anyway if they are excluded from public debates, and their campaigns are not covered by the press?

I would argue that Huckabee is extreme. Wanting to rewrite the Constitution to match the Word of the Living God seems pretty extreme. He was not considered seriously until the “evangelical” vote seemed to mobilize behind him.

Preaching to the Center
This one always gets me. Who is this “center” / “moderate?” What are “their” issues and concerns? If one looks at the polls, the majority of the populace want: us out of Iraq; universal healthcare of some description; seriously addressing the mortgage/debt crisis and falling economy; among other issues. Are these folks the “center?” If so then seem a bit to the putative “left” of the putative “center.”

What emerges out of narrowing of “options” - which means silencing of voices - does not necessarily move us toward a “choice.” What it seems to be doing is moving us towards a platform being largely shared by all the “viable” candidates. Is that a movement towards a good choice, or a movement towards “group think” - which frequently produces very poor decisions?

Posted by: Rowan at January 20, 2008 12:43 PM
Comment #243382

Serious candidates are those who have gone through the steps and requirements to put delegates on the ballots, who can be selected by the voters to send to the convention. The rest of them are just saying hello, and here is what I have to say, and are eliminated as voting progresses and people find out that they have no way of actually voting for those candidates. Their togas are not really white.

Richardson is out of the race, and is still a more serious candidate than Gravel or Kucinich, because he went through the real process, not just in his own imagination. The election machinery is not set up the day before the primary, in fact voting here started 3 weeks before Feb 5.

In 1988 Gary Hart was running and I was living in Florida and wanted to vote for him, but he did not even have enough delegates on the ballot, so I voted for some Hollings delegates. The nomination went to Dukakis, and I voted for some 3rd party candidate. I do not even remember who I voted for, but it was very disappointing. Bush was elected and we got the First Oil War

I have a great deal of respect for Gravel, in fact I think the 2 current Alaskan Pig Oil senators should be left out on an ice floe for the polar bears and Gravel should be appointed to one of those seats.

I know litle about Kucinich expect that he has a surprisingly hot wife, which I think I know because of Youtube, which is the real big media now, without confusing corporate controlled content.

Edwards is a big blank empty space for me, I would rather have Gore run again than him.

Clinton and Obama should put aside their differences and decide to be on the same ticket, and I do not care in which order. If Obama leaves the senate, I would personally like Chris Kennedy to run for that seat, but Rahm Emanuel would also be good.

Posted by: ohrealy at January 20, 2008 2:11 PM
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