After Super Tuesday, It’s Time For The Press To Drop Its Doomsday Clinton Coverage
This article originally appeared on Media Matters.
The time has come for the campaign press to finally pack away its Hillary Clinton doomsday script.
Since the new year, much of the Clinton campaign coverage has revolved around trying to detail her weaknesses, stitching together scenarios where she would fail, and just generally bemoaning what an awful campaign she was supposedly running: She’s too loud! And “everything” is going wrong.
In fact, the primary season has unfolded in the way level-headed observers suggested it might: Iowa was close, Sanders enjoyed a clear advantage in New Hampshire, and then Clinton started accumulating victories. But instead of telling that sober story, the press opted for a far more tantalizing tale — a Clintoncollapse! A 2008 repeat! Even when Clinton did win, the press often stressed how her victories weren’t really victories. (Politico claimed Clinton was “stung” by her narrow Iowa win.)
The narrative has been tightly knit: Voters don’t really like her.
“In reality, nobody is that excited about Hillary Clinton, and young voters, women and men — the foot soldiers of any Democratic Party movement — aren’t coming around,” BuzzFeed reported. Days later, Clinton won women voters in South Carolina by nearly 50 points.
Keep in mind, Clinton’s win-loss primary record today doesn’t look that much different from Donald Trump’s. Yet his coverage is delivered in the glow of a celebrity; of a candidate who’s enjoying an astounding run of unmatched victories. Instead, the tone and tenor of Clinton’s coverage this year often mirrored that of Jeb Bush’s — the guy who ran a historically futile campaign and dropped out without winning a state.
By all indications the Democratic primary contest will march on, and Clinton remains a ways away from securing the delegates needed to officially secure the nomination. But in the wake of Super Tuesday and Clinton’s widespread primary success, this seems like a good time for the press to reassess its coverage; to maybe reset how it sees the campaign, and specifically adjust the at-times comically doomsday coverage it continued to heap on the Democratic frontrunner.
Request to the media: Please take your thumb off the scale. In fact, please take both thumbs off the scale.
Trust me, critics of the Clinton coverage aren’t looking for the Democratic frontrunner to get a free pass. Close observers of the Clintons over the years know that’s just never going to happen. They just want a fair shot. They’d like the press to go back to its job of simply reporting and analyzing what’s happening on the campaign trail and to get out of the narrative-building business. Stop with the hyperventilating that every Clinton campaign speed bump seems to produce, and stop trying to force-feed voters a story that’s not actually happening.
The cyclical waves of she’s-doomed coverage have become as tiresome as they are predictable:
*During Clinton’s summer of 2014 book tour, which the press announced was a complete “disaster.”
*During March of 2015 when the Clinton email story broke.
*During the Clinton Foundation witch hunt in May of last year.
*During renewed email fever last September when the Washington Post averaged more than two Clinton email updates every day of the month.
On and on this production has run.
But was it really that bad this winter? Consider that this was an actual headline from a February Washington Post column, “Clinton email scandal: Why It Might Be Time For Democrats To Draft Joe Biden.”
Yep. Democrats might need to replace Clinton.
On the eve of the Nevada vote, Vanity Fair insisted Clinton allies were “panicking,” and that anything short of a “blowout” win would be “disastrous” for her campaign. Indeed, when Clinton won by five points, Vanity Fair announced she had lost “her narrative.”
Author Gail Sheehy, writing a piece for The New York Times, claimed Baby Boomer women weren’t supporting Clinton’s campaign, when in fact Baby Boomer women are among Clinton’s most ardent supporters.
And reporting from South Carolina, the Post stressed that Bill Clinton was causing all kinds of “headaches” for the campaign by being caught “on the wrong side of the headlines.” Critiquing his campaign persona, the Post insisted “he seems to lose it,” pointing to his “apparent vitriol.” Hillary Clinton’s subsequent 47-point victory in South Carolina raised doubts about the paper’s claim that Bill Clinton was hurting the campaign.
Meanwhile, Post columnist Kathleen Parker, leaning on the she’s-doomed narrative, painted an extraordinarily negative picture of Clinton’s chances of winning in the Palmetto state. Parker claimed Clinton was entering “troubled water” in South Carolina and “particularly among African Americans.”
Fact: Clinton won 86 percent of the South Carolina African-American vote. As a pundit, it’s hard to be more wrong than Parker was.
Can you imagine scribes typing up articles and columns this winter about how Bernie Sanders was having trouble attracting young voters and arguing that if he couldn’t tap into the enthusiasm of millennials his campaign was doomed? Of course not, because that would have made no sense. Yet that didn’t stop people from writing about how Clinton was struggling with women and black voters, even though the premises were so easily debunked.
Those are the Clinton Rules: Anything goes. There’s no penalty for being wrong about the Clintons, which of course only encourages people to be as illogical as they want when chronicling her campaign.
But now as the contours of the looming general election race come into view, it’s time now for an honest media reassessment.