aNewDomain commentary — Carly Fiorina, leading some surveys in the Republican presidential race and a clear second in the polls, owes her improved fortunes less to her competent debate performance (never mind her brazen lies) than media manipulation.
Jump into the Way Back When Machine to late August. Remember how the pundit class kept shouting that she deserved a spot in the “main” debate for the top ten-ranked candidates, even though she was running less than 10th, in the single digits?
“Based on every meaningful metric, I’ve earned a place on the main stage,” she said in an email to CNN.
Not every metric.
Because Fiorina ran less than tenth in “an average of national polling taken between mid-July and mid-September,” which was where CNN drew the cutoff between the main and secondary debates. Fox News used the same rule for the first debate.
Not one to play by the rules, however, Fiorina’s camp pushed the open door of a media that, with Hillary Clinton seemingly inevitable on the Democratic side, wanted to see a woman counterpart on the right — if not as the nominee, certainly as a strong contender.
By August 31, Murdoch house organ the New York Post was calling Fiorina’s likely exclusion from Debate Two “manifestly unfair.”
CNN relented the next day.
“The CNN move is being greeted as a positive development, and not only for the most obvious reason, which is that a woman will be in the mix, in contrast to the 10-man tableau that a huge national television audience saw at the first debate on Aug. 6 in Cleveland,” applauded The Washington Post.
Changing the rules to accommodate Fiorina pushed one of the male candidates back to the “kids’ debate” — yet no called that “unfair.”
At least one pundit noticed the men behind the punk curtain.
“The Fiorina boomlet may be almost entirely a CNN creation,” the Post’s Dana Milbank wrote. “First the network changed its own qualification rules to give Fiorina a place on the main debate stage. During the debate, moderator Jake Tapper of CNN teed up several confrontations between Fiorina and Trump that played to her advantage (inviting her to comment, for example, on Trump’s ‘persona’ and his insult of her appearance).
After the debate, CNN proclaimed Fiorina ‘the breakout star of the night, taking on Republican front-runner Donald Trump with finesse and capturing the crowd with polished, zinging answers.’ Then came the CNN poll that showed, as CNN described it, that ‘Fiorina shot into second place in the Republican presidential field on the heels of another strong debate performance.’
CNN shoehorns her into debate; CNN puffs her up during debate; CNN praises her debate performance; CNN trumpets poll showing debate gained her support: In the corporate world Fiorina comes from, this is known as vertical integration.”
And in the real world where I come from, this is called putting your nasty fat thumb on the scale.
Forgive my naïveté, but this election — and most elections in my memory — would look very different if the United States were really a democracy.
In a democracy, the people would vote; let the chips fall where they may.
Instead of laissez faire democracy, we’ve got a media that’s telling voters not to support the candidates they support, and to switch their votes to those the media prefers.
On the Republican side, they’re telling us that The Donald has peaked. That was fun, guys, but now it’s time for the “adults” — read, standard-issue, boring, establishment politicians — to take over. We listen even when the advice comes from the wrongest pundits ever, and Trump is still running #1.
It’s the same thing for the Democrats. Enthusiasm for Hillary is violently tepid and Bernie Sanders is surging fast. So the pro-Hillary media keeps running pieces that echo the meme that Bernie is unelectable.
Media manipulators can’t help themselves.
Whether it’s the victory of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections (“complicating peace efforts,” The Washington Post wrote) or the likely victory of the exiled Afghan king in the 2002 loya jirga (which the U.S. sabotaged behind the scenes, with media approval), or the 2008 Democratic primaries in which the media drove John Edwards out of the race by starving him of coverage, they think they know better than we the people.
And they’re willing to do just about anything to get their way.