Campaign 2004 as a foreign country

Jay Rosen writes about how Paul Gourevich covers the campaign as though visiting a foreign country.

The show takes place inside a bubble, which is a security perimeter overseen by the Secret Service. The bubble is a physical thing: a threshold your body crosses. If you are part of the traveling press corps, sticking with the candidate through the swing states, then you have to be swept–screened for weapons and explosives–or you cannot be on the bus. If you go outside the bubble for any reason, you become a security risk until you are screened again by hand.

…”Right there they have you,” Gourevitch told our crowd of about 50 journalism students and faculty. “Outside the bubble you cannot go because then you’re dirty again and have to be checked by the Secret Service.” Under these conditions, he said, “no spontaneous reporting is possible.” [emphasis mine]

You cannot jump into the crowd with an audio recorder and find out why those people were chanting what they were chanting before they were shown away by security guards. Accepting this limitation–a big one–becomes part of the bubble.

Gourevich’s experience is one small part of a larger thing that amounts to “how we get the government we deserve.” (I say this with a bias that I’d like for us to deserve and get some better government, please.)

Last week when I saw that NOAA had declared a new El Niño, and how El Niño conditions affect hurricanes — wind shear makes it less likely for hurricanes to occur in the Atlantic (where they’re happening now), and more likely in the Pacific. On one level, I’m amazed that what happens in the Pacific ends up changing what happens in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico (and, in fact, everywhere on the globe).

I’d like to comprehend the antecedent conditions for political “climate” in order to understand why we end up with such awful choices every four years. (If “Neither” were on the ballot, would Neither win a majority?)

What contributes to the political El Niño conditions? (and are we in a perpetual El Niño, or does it ever change to La Niña?) In addition to the way that the campaign reporters agree to be embedded inside the Secret Service bubble, what other indicators are there?

Some obvious ones:
Follow the money (campaign contributions, and payback from the now-elected)
Gerrymandering (redrawing congressional districts to keep districts “safe”)
Voter Apathy (no, why vote? My vote doesn’t make a difference….)
Others?

2 responses to “Campaign 2004 as a foreign country”

  1. Donald Larson

    “You cannot jump into the crowd with an audio recorder and find out why those people were chanting what they were chanting before they were shown away by security guards. Accepting this limitation–a big one–becomes part of the bubble.”

    No one forces reporters to be in “the bubble”. They can stay outside it and report all they like from the crowd. It’s a choice they make voluntarily.

    “Gourevich’s experience is one small part of a larger thing that amounts to “how we get the government we deserve.â€? (I say this with a bias that I’d like for us to deserve and get some better government, please.)”

    My American government’s pretty good, but not perfect. I’m voting on Election Day. Every American who is legally eligible to vote, should go vote. That’s the only way we know how to govern ourselves. Even during a derisive time, we still are Americans when the day is done.

    We’ll see how it all turns out.

    Don

  2. Donald Larson

    I also want to say that every candidate for President should be in debates. I really dislike the idea that Ralph Nader isn’t in the upcoming debates.

    It’s bad enough that the Democratic Party tries to implement the un-American position of telling another American that they shouldn’t run for President. On that issue, the Democratic Party isn’t any different than the hard-line Iranians Clerics are who kept hundreds of moderates off the ballots in this year’s Iranian elections. Same approach by both groups.

    But back to the matter of Ralph Nader and other fringe candidates. Why should they be kept off of a debate? Maybe some Americans want to hear their views or hear their questions in the same arena as the two major party candidates reside? Even my being a staunch Republican, I want to hear what they have to say!

    We had a third-party candidate in the 1980 election debates. I don’t recall a melt-down of our political process back then. I do recall President Jimmy “The Wimp” Carter wanted to keep John Anderson out of the debates and Ronald Reagan wanted John Anderson to participate. I guess the Democrats were the “less inclusive” party even back then.

    We’ll have a little better government when the candidates get an equal shot at debates.

    Don