The pundits are way behind the times and the candidates

Rebecca Traister writes thoughtful pieces examining important issues. I last linked to one of her articles where she argued that the sexual abuse issues highlighted by #MeToo was a watershed moment for the feminist movement. She now has another excellent article where she examines how far behind the times the political pundit class is, which is why so many of them tend to see only Joe Biden as ‘presidential’ and ‘electable’, because he reflects the entitlement period from which they too emerged

In past weeks, the curtain has officially been raised on the vast and diverse field of candidates for the Democratic nomination, many of them politicians who would not have been seen on a presidential debate stage — and never in these numbers — even a decade ago. Six of the 25 declared candidates are not men; six of them are not white; there is one openly gay man and one Jew who’s also a democratic socialist. During the first round of debates, several candidates made efforts to speak Spanish that, while performative, reflected an overdue acknowledgment that they were speaking to a broader swath of the country than the moderate white men in diners to whom so much Democratic messaging has been directed for decades. Beyond their representational expansion, many of the candidates are offering up compelling, progressive policy ideas: pushing the party into fights for single-payer health care, subsidized child care, free college, a Green New Deal, a stronger commitment to reproductive justice and a push for more humane immigration policies.

But we’re also getting our first real taste of the punditry that will frame this next year and a half, and so far, it is the opposite of fresh, diverse, or forward-thinking. Rather, the analysis coughed up by some of the nation’s loudest and most prominent talking heads sounds familiar and stale. The dispiriting truth is that many of those tasked with interpreting our politics are — in addition to being extremely freaked out by the race they’re covering — totally ill-equipped for the historic task ahead of them.

Where many Americans have seen the emergence of compelling and charismatic candidates who don’t look like those who’ve preceded them (but do look more like the country they want to lead), some prominent pundits seem to be looking at a field of people they simply can’t recognize as presidential. Where many hear Democratic politicians arguing vigorously on behalf of more justice and access to resources for people who have historically been kept at the margins of power, some prominent columnists are hearing a scary call to destabilization and chaos, imagining themselves on the outside of politics they’ve long assumed should be centered around them.

Altogether, what’s emerging is a view of a presidential commentariat that — in terms of both ideas and diversity — is embarrassingly outpaced by the candidates, many of whom appear smarter, more thoughtful, and to have a nimbler grasp of American history and structural inequities than the television journalists being paid to cover them.

Well worth reading in full.


  1. woodsong says

    Swallow your coffee before reading this, people. I’m not responsible if it ends up on your keyboard, screen, or up your nose.

    When challenged by MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, Deutsch got defensive: “I am understanding Donald Trump, the way he connects with this country, and the strength he exudes. We need to exude a stronger strength.” Deutsch exuded his own stronger strength by affirming that he is “a guy who’s done this for 30 years and watched human behavior.”

    Skimming this quote, I first misread the bolded word as stench.

    Reading further about some of the other this this pundit has said, I think I had it right the first time. My reading is more appropriate.

  2. dave57 says

    I agree. I’m already tired of reading analyses that essentially state that the democrats need to nominate a candidate who will promise not to make any changes in order to beat Trump. This is the thinking that has stalled the progressive agenda for 30 years, and why culture war issues sway voters who see no other significant differences between the two parties.

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