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The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

Old 06-07-10, 11:27 AM
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The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

This is the greatest article, ever. It's amazing how even knowledgeable people, including people who post here, simply regurgitate canned talking points by policy makers and believe the statements of pundits, who are paid to create news when none actually exists.

The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

What if political scientists covered the news?
By Christopher Beam

Posted Friday, June 4, 2010, at 6:11 PM ET

A new article in the Columbia Journalism Review discusses the differences between political journalism and political science. What if academics started writing the news?

A powerful thunderstorm forced President Obama to cancel his Memorial Day speech near Chicago on Monday—an arbitrary event that had no affect on the trajectory of American politics.

Obama now faces some of the most difficult challenges of his young presidency: the ongoing oil spill, the Gaza flotilla disaster, and revelations about possibly inappropriate conversations between the White House and candidates for federal office. But while these narratives may affect fleeting public perceptions, Americans will ultimately judge Obama on the crude economic fundamentals of jobs numbers and GDP.

Chief among the criticisms of Obama was his response to the spill. Pundits argued that he needed to show more emotion. Their analysis, however, should be viewed in light of the economic pressures on the journalism industry combined with a 24-hour news environment and a lack of new information about the spill itself.

Republicans, meanwhile, complained that the administration has not been sufficiently involved in the day-to-day cleanup. Their analysis, of course, is colored by their minority status in America's two-party system, which creates a strong structural incentive to criticize the party in power, whatever the merits.

At the same time, Obama's job approval rating fell to 48 percent. This isn't really news, though. Studies have shown that the biggest factor in a president's rating is economic performance. Connecting the minute blip in the polls with Obama's reluctance to emote or alleged failure to send enough boom to the Gulf is, frankly, absurd.

Democrats have also slipped in their standing among "independent voters." That phrase, by the way, is meaningless. Voters may self-identify as "independent" but in almost all cases they lean toward one party.

Poll numbers also confirmed that Americans are in an anti-incumbent mood. … Ha! Just kidding. The anti-Washington narrative was concocted by dominant media outlets based on the outcomes of a statistically insignificant handful of largely unrelated races. Sorry.

Still, Democrats hope that passing health care and financial regulatory reform will give them enough momentum to win in November. Unfortunately, there's little relationship between legislative victories and electoral victories. Also, what the hell is "momentum"?

Prospects for an energy bill, meanwhile, are looking grim, since Obama has spent all his political capital. He used to have a lot. Now it's gone. Why winning legislative battles builds momentum but saps political capital, I have no idea. Just go with it.

Possible "game changers" for Obama include plugging the oil leak, peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, and World War III, although these events would be almost entirely outside Obama's control.

Looking ahead to 2012, Republicans need a candidate who can shake up the electoral map, which currently consists of "red states" and "blue states," even though there's not much difference.

The GOP—a stupid acronym we use only so we don't have to keep repeating the word Republican—will have to decide between a moderate "establishment" pick and a more conservative Tea Party favorite. In reality, both candidates would embrace similar policies in the general election.

That candidate will then face off against Obama, whose charisma, compelling personal story, and professional political operation will prove formidable. Actually, Obama will probably win because he's the incumbent. And because voters always go with the guy who's taller.
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Old 06-07-10, 11:44 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

Yes.
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Old 06-07-10, 11:47 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

That's still one too many!

Seriously, though, it was startling to read this as it's very true but also something nobody will admit to:

Democrats have also slipped in their standing among "independent voters." That phrase, by the way, is meaningless. Voters may self-identify as "independent" but in almost all cases they lean toward one party.
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Old 06-07-10, 11:50 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

Originally Posted by Groucho View Post
That's still one too many!

Seriously, though, it was startling to read this as it's very true but also something nobody will admit to:
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Old 06-07-10, 11:51 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

What, we're supposed to read books now?
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Old 06-07-10, 12:01 PM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

Please bold the important parts!
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Old 06-08-10, 10:47 PM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

I would guess that most Independent voters dont really like either party but probably dislike one more than the other.
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Old 06-09-10, 12:56 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

Republicans won't have to do a darn thing come 2012. Except for keeping Palin away from cameras and turkeys, and a few new gay Conservatives who will get in the news for controversial behavior, but even then, it will be a slam dunk for Republicans. Fair Weather voting is becoming the norm, and we even see this in the political arena as representatives change parties. It's rather scary. This means the political process is just that. A process. Nothing gets done. Just higher salaries for politicians who changed their political status.
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Old 06-09-10, 01:10 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

I'm an independent and I just flip my party vote every election. That usually gives me room to bitch as much as I want.
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Old 06-09-10, 02:48 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

The thing I don't like about terms like "canned talking points" is that they implicitly and unreasonably suggest that all talking points are false.

Last edited by Hank Ringworm; 06-09-10 at 02:51 AM.
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Old 06-09-10, 03:36 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

Well, you can't deny that the 24 hour news stations tend to rotate the same three or four talking points for a few weeks, then move on to a new set that get endlessly recycled, and so on.
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Old 06-09-10, 08:39 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

I believe there are not nearly as many 'truly' independent voters as claimed.

Many of those 'independent' voters tend to vote for one party or the other party.

I think we have even fewer on this forum.
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Old 06-09-10, 09:22 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

Good article. Especially that stuff about momentum and political capital. I think the whole political capital concept is 80% BS.
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Old 06-09-10, 09:25 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

Prospects for an energy bill, meanwhile, are looking grim, since Obama has spent all his political capital. He used to have a lot. Now it's gone. Why winning legislative battles builds momentum but saps political capital, I have no idea. Just go with it.
Prospects for any real energy bill were grim long before the spill.
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Old 06-09-10, 09:31 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

Sorry, but that article was crap. It would raise points without expanding on them only to hop onto the next topic half heartedly. Plus, I'm not sure how political scientists come into the article at all. Heck, there aren't any citations for the 'facts'.
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Old 06-09-10, 09:32 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

Originally Posted by Superman07 View Post
Sorry, but that article was crap. It would raise points without expanding on them only to hop onto the next topic half heartedly. Plus, I'm not sure how political scientists come into the article at all. Heck, there aren't any citations for the 'facts'.
You risk hurting our esteemed moderator's feelings with those comments.
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Old 06-09-10, 11:01 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

Originally Posted by Superman07 View Post
Sorry, but that article was crap. It would raise points without expanding on them only to hop onto the next topic half heartedly. Plus, I'm not sure how political scientists come into the article at all. Heck, there aren't any citations for the 'facts'.
For which statements would you like citations (which, BTW, belong in an academic paper, not a newspaper article)? I'll be happy to provide whatever you need.

Here's an good example of how punditry is essentially describing the way you want the world to work as if it were the way it really does:

The magical thinking of Fred Barnes
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Old 06-09-10, 11:27 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

Okay, crap may be a bit harsh. It certainly is entertaining, but it doesn't have much substance. I don't understand your last sentence. Where was I prescribing anything about punditry?
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Old 06-09-10, 11:29 AM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

Originally Posted by Superman07 View Post
Okay, crap may be a bit harsh. It certainly is entertaining, but it doesn't have much substance. I don't understand your last sentence. Where was I prescribing anything about punditry?
It wasn't in response to your post. I saw the piece about Barnes and came into the thread to post a link to it, saw your post, and tacked it onto my reply to you.
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Old 06-09-10, 02:18 PM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

Originally Posted by Hank Ringworm View Post
The thing I don't like about terms like "canned talking points" is that they implicitly and unreasonably suggest that all talking points are false.
The percentage of talking points that are actually true is so small as to be statistically irrelevant.

The purpose of canned talking points is to present an opinion in such a way as to convince the listener that all of the "facts" needed to draw one's own conclusion is included in the talking points. It's self-contained. And so in that context, all canned talking points are true from an internal consistency standpoint.

Last edited by sracer; 06-09-10 at 02:20 PM.
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Old 06-09-10, 06:48 PM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

Originally Posted by sracer View Post
The percentage of talking points that are actually true is so small as to be statistically irrelevant.

The purpose of canned talking points is to present an opinion in such a way as to convince the listener that all of the "facts" needed to draw one's own conclusion is included in the talking points. It's self-contained. And so in that context, all canned talking points are true from an internal consistency standpoint.
Would a pro-Constitution activist in 1791 be using talking points if he paraphrased the Federalist Papers? What if twelve of them did it, each of his own volition?

I know the purpose of a canned talking point, but that purpose is not its definition. I've always thought of talking points simply as oft-repeated, simplified arguments (theses of more complex arguments, perhaps). Neither of those descriptors guarantee, or even suggest, falsehood.
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Old 06-09-10, 07:04 PM
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Re: The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have To Read

People generally fall into two basic groups in nations where they are free to voice opinion and even participate in government. 'Independent' would ideally mean 'I don't believe or participate in the propaganda that is the substance of either party, or its politicians and pundits'. I'm not asserting that this is the case, but that's a fair definition of that term in modern politics.

The fact that people, humans fall into one of two basic views of government as a tendency of human nature does not negate that idea of 'independent'. Again, do I think the majority of people who self-identify as 'independent' have thought this through and reflect what I describe? No. They're mostly idiots parroting things they hardly are able to grasp.

But 'independent' is not negated by human nature. Thus I find the article guilty of claiming to be the erudite understanding of political scientists and not being all that erudite about it... as is often the case in such things. The term "self-impressed lightweights" leaps to mind as I read that article..

That people 'lean towards' one party or the other is human nature. It would be refreshing to see a 'political scientist' who knew that.

"Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. The last one of Aristocrats and Democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all." --Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, 1824

"Both of our political parties, at least the honest portion of them, agree conscientiously in the same object: the public good; but they differ essentially in what they deem the means of promoting that good. One side believes it best done by one composition of the governing powers, the other by a different one. One fears most the ignorance of the people; the other the selfishness of rulers independent of them. Which is right, time and experience will prove. We think that one side of this experiment has been long enough tried and proved not to promote the good of the many, and that the other has not been fairly and sufficiently tried. Our opponents think the reverse. With whichever opinion the body of the nation concurs, that must prevail." --Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, 1804

"Men have differed in opinion and been divided into parties by these opinions from the first origin of societies, and in all governments where they have been permitted freely to think and to speak. The same political parties which now agitate the U.S. have existed through all time. Whether the power of the people or that of the [aristocracy] should prevail were questions which kept the states of Greece and Rome in eternal convulsions, as they now schismatize every people whose minds and mouths are not shut up by the gag of a despot. And in fact the terms of Whig and Tory belong to natural as well as to civil history. They denote the temper and constitution of mind of different individuals." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1813

Wow, a real political scientist. Refreshing.
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