Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Consultants and Media

Robert Parry, the political Muse
Shares his views
On "Why Democrats lose"
at Consortium News

Please pardon the "senior Jesse Jackson moment" there, folks!

In explaining Busby's defeat in this bellwether special election, national Democratic consultants will likely point to failures of Busby as a candidate or the fact that the Republican Congressional Committee pumped more than $4.5 million into the district.

But the one point the Democratic consultants almost never mention is the giant media advantage that Republicans have created from years of investing in media outlets - from newspapers, magazines and books to cable television, talk radio and the Internet.

Yet, it is this conservative messaging capability - in coordination with the Republican national political operation - that has proved decisive in election after election, even in disputed contests such as Florida in Election 2000 when the conservative media quickly portrayed Bush as the legitimate winner even though Al Gore got more votes.

Sometimes, when I talk to or e-mail with Americans around the country, they are perplexed as to why Democratic candidates always seem to turn to the same national consultants who lead the party to defeat time and again.

On the other hand, Republicans harbor no similar fears and indeed seem to relish taking the fight to even mildly skeptical mainstream talk show hosts, who, in turn, must fear for their careers if they are targeted as "liberal" by angry and well-organized conservatives.

Yet, as the Busby defeat has again demonstrated, the national Democrats don't seem to have any clue how to break this cycle.

Here's a clue for 'em: Get a message, then unify, consolidate, co-ordinate, and communicate all this to the public.

But given the current media imbalance to the Right, there is also a desperate need to level the playing field by having more media outlets that present views more from the Left side of the political spectrum.

Liberals and progressives simply cannot count on the mainstream news media to act as a counterweight to conservative news outlets. That is not in the job description of mainstream journalists, who understand that their careers will be better served if they tilt Right and avoid getting stuck with the "liberal" label.

This "consultariat" mostly disparaged investments in media and directed money instead to "think tanks" where the consultants and many of their friends were kept in high-paying jobs. They apparently are awaiting a Republican crackup like the one in 1992 when Ross Perot siphoned enough votes away from George H.W. Bush for Bill Clinton to slip into the White House.

So, instead of investing in promising Internet sites or improving the "progressive" content on radio and TV, liberal money flowed overwhelmingly into the hands of the same ol' Democratic consultant class.

Between their highly-paid-but-interest-conflicted consultants and a buncha media types lookin' out for themselves in the current power atmosphere, the Dems are well-nigh sunk right from the gate.

If they had a coherent unified message, something the chattering class deigned strong enough that they could take their teeth out of the jar and sink 'em into, their attitudes might start to change. The Reps have been screwing up bad enough for long enough that you'd think that would be reason enough to start. It's not. It's helpful and a good start, but the Dems don't seem to be capable of capitalizing on it. Time is of the essence here, as today's message can and will become tomorrow's fish wrapper.

I'd say to Hell with consultants unless they consult candidates to go with their gut, stand on principle, and speak loudly and often and in one voice, and not be afraid to piss someone off. Consultants should offer advice but the candidates must decide what's right for them.

It might help to get some young and hungry not-yet-entrenched-and-rich media types in as well, but that'll happen when we're dodgin' aviating porcine excreta.

Please go read the rest of Mr. Parry's piece.

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