Allow this media blog a moment of indulgence here, wishing that Newt Gingrich had been the suited figure basking in the balloons in Tampa on Thursday night. It’s not that Gingrich’s politics align with this blog’s; nor is it that the guy would have delivered, necessarily, a better speech. But unlike Mitt Romney, he would have been more likely to criticize not only President Obama but also possibly his beloved “elite media.”
And that's always fun. It was fun in the primary debates, when Gingrich never passed up an opportunity to put down his questioners in the media. Or cite the problem on the stump. Or wherever he happened to be.
The guy who eliminated him from contention wasn’t as enthusiastic about media attacks. Sure, Romney said the following in an interview on Breitbart.com: “Many in the media are inclined to do the president’s bidding, and I know that’s an uphill battle we fight with the media generally.”
But, hey, this guy doesn’t obsess over how to sharpen his jabs against the media. And it’s not as if media bias ranks up there with the economy and jobs on the American issue ladder. Another factor: When a convention speaker is trying to channel Reagan from the podium, well, media-bashing does feel a bit small.
Notwithstanding all of that, here’s the Erik Wemple Blog’s early call to make media criticism at least a subtheme of the 2016 Republican National Convention, which is coming right up.
Exhibit A in this brief is the numbers. They are fantastic. No matter what group the 2016 nominee/incumbent is looking to woo, well, media criticism appeals. Have a look at these numbers from a Daily Kos/SEIU poll showing the favorability ratings of the “political media.” Or, better said, the “unfavorability ratings”:
Favorable Unfavorable Not sure
All 10 78 12
Women 10 76 15
Men 10 80 10
Dem. 15 65 20
GOP 5 91 3
Liberal 13 66 21
White 7 82 11
Afr.-Am 20 62 18
Union hshld15 77 9
Non-union 8 78 13
So that’s a blowout. Interested in other groups? High school graduates, high school dropouts, Hispanics, Southerners, 30- to 45-year-olds, people making less than $30,000? You’re not just safe with an anti-media message — you’re golden.
Exhibit B is the flexibility of anti-media, big-speech rhetoric. A prolonged study of high-profile speeches from this convention yielded a number of spots where a row of knuckles to the jaw of the national media could have sneaked into the speech.
A note on signposts here. The following excerpts are pulled from online transcripts of key convention speeches. Italics denote this blog’s edits to insert a universally pleasing denunciation of the media.
Tonight’s acceptance speech by Mitt Romney:
Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago. Hope and Change had a powerful appeal. But tonight I’d ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama? You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was that media-addled tingle on the day you voted for him.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
And on a personal note — a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham, the most segregated big city in America: Her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant, but they make her believe that, even though she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, she can be president of the United States and she becomes the secretary of state. Yes, America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect. But of course it has never been inevitable – it has taken leadership, courage and an unwavering faith in our values and a truly fair and balanced press.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez:
Success is the American Dream.
And that success is not something to be ashamed of, or to demonize, as we do to the media.
Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan:
President Obama is the kind of politician who puts promises on the record, and then calls that the record. But we are four years into this presidency. The issue is not the economy as Barack Obama inherited it, not the economy as he envisions it, not the economy as our biased media portrays it, but this economy as we are living it.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie:
We are the great-grandchildren of men and women who broke their backs in the name of American ingenuity; the grandchildren of the Greatest Generation; the sons and daughters of immigrants; the brothers and sisters of everyday heroes; the neighbors of entrepreneurs and firefighters, teachers and farmers, veterans and factory workers and everyone in-between who shows up not just on the big days or the good days, but on the bad days and on the hard days. And do you know what I say to the media? Take a hike.
See how easy?
In the spirit of a balanced presentation here, we’ll finish with some dissenting remarks from Republican strategist Mark McKinnon. When asked why we don’t see better and more frequent media slams from the podium, he responded:
Because the bigger the event the bigger the bite if you bark too loud about the media. It works with the base, but you don’t want to be whining when you’re talking to independent voters. You need to get to a majority, and the media is the filter to them.
Okay, but what about data saying that independents don’t hold the media in high regard, either? “Still 13 points less salient than Republican base. Bottom line: General-election voters want winners, not whiners.”