Covering the Coverage of the 2010 Elections

by Jesse Singal | November 3, 2010

Jesse Singal bravely agreed to watch the cable news coverage of Election Day 2010, in its entirety, and report on it for us. These are the illuminating results:

Mine Eyes Will See No Glory

I'll be spending the remainder of this afternoon and evening watching election night coverage and blogging about it here. Think of it as an ultra-concentrated reenactment of the Chilean miners' ordeal. I am the miners, and the mine is the inky blackness that is televised election coverage in this nation—a muggy, cramped space a mile from the real world that’s jam-packed with mostly horrible people saying pointless things which seem designed to make regular people angry.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "That's a ridiculous, insulting, offensive comparison, Jesse. What you're going through bears no resemblance to the disaster in Chile. Those miners didn't have to sit there and watch cable news—they were free to converse, exercise, smoke cigarettes, and watch DVDs." That is a good point, and I appreciate your concern.

This isn't the first time I've taken a televised bullet for TNR, so in all likelihood I will survive. The path between now and my rescue is a long one, however, and I could use some help. To borrow a bit of common sense a robot voice on the subway taught me, if you see something, say something. Questions, comments, Breitbart racial epithets I may have missed—all are welcome. Send them to TVslowlykillssingal@gmail.com. If I get good stuff, I'll post it (and if you want to be credited by name, say so).

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In Defense of TV News

Jack Shafer, in what I can only assume is a direct personal shot at me, comes out strongly against election-night TV coverage:

[Prior to] projected winners, the network talent have almost nothing to do besides stretch their thin material. They chat with one another, crochet scarves outside of camera view, and switch to those interminable "two-ways" that anchors conduct with correspondents camped out at the "victory" parties of the candidates. Worse yet, they grill their panel of pundits, whose contributions are almost always subtractive.

There's no news to be gleaned from the broadcasts before projections are made and sometimes less than no news after, as the candidate comes out to concede the race or claim victory. Personally, I'd rather be beaten with a dung-caked rake and forced to watch an infomercial about skin-care products than endure another two-way conversation, a concession speech, or a victory celebration on election night. If you watch TV coverage compulsively on election night, you must admit to yourself that it's out of habit and nothing else. If your political fanaticism was real, you'd be banging the URLs on your computer, not the TV remote.

As much as I admire Jack Shafer and his gleeful curmudgeonliness (embarrassing admission: I keep having this one dream where I hug him while he yells at me), he's wrong here. If I didn't tune in tonight, pre-returns, how would I know whether or not Americans are in favor of big, socialist government programs? Or whether or not Obama overstepped every previously agreed-upon political and ideological boundary, enraging voters in the process, by enacting some of the policies he campaigned for prior to his runaway victory? And where would I go to get Sarah Palin's thoughts about issues, people, and stuff—not to mention things?

Shafer may have the answers to these burning questions, but I do not. Does he really expect me to humiliate myself the next time one of my friends references a particularly cutting Mary Matalin election-night bon mot and I don't get it? We don't all have the social capital to overcome such faux pas, Jack.

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Not the Best Economic News Team on Television

At 5:00 I'll be tuning into Glenn Beck, a rich, sumptuous meal for the modern connoisseur of crazy media. So a rather bland, easily digestible appetizer seems like a good choice in the meantime. No point getting the fried tortellini and the bruschetta and the penne alla vodka. "CNN Newsroom," the garden salad of late-afternoon TV.

Alas, as soon as I tuned in, Brooke Baldwin made the mistake of attempting to talk about the economy in a cogent way. Over shots of stock ticker displays, she said, "We've been talking a whole lot about jobs, jobs, jobs, with regard to this election. Voters have said it, economy, issue number one. So looking at the Dow it is down just a tad... as we close out the day here on Election Day 2010."

This is an excellent point: Dow. Jobs. Election. Economy. Issues!

It's a good thing I know very little about economics, because if I did I'd probably be pissed she just conflated two completely separate concepts in such a vague, unhelpful way. God only knows what the economics coverage is going to look like later on, when people are actually watching.

On the bright side, she also promised "state of the art graphics and the latest voter tracking technology." Will they be tracking individual voters? How does this connect to FISA?

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What I Learned From Watching Glenn Beck's Entire Show, Start To Finish, For The First Time Ever

When Obama won, Glenn was happy because America had elected its first black president (despite the fact that, as it turned out, Obama hates white people.

-Glenn does this weird thing where he shows a past clip of himself making a prediction or taking a call on his simulcast radio show, but the camera stays on him while the clip runs over his right shoulder. Present Glenn just sorta sits there glowering while Past Glenn does his thing. The effect is incredibly creepy and meta.

-Nobody knows who wrote the stimulus bill. The powers that be claim it was members of Congress and their staffs, but Glenn isn't so sure.

-The Black Panthers and "the unions" both threatened to attend Glenn's 8/28 rally, but thousands of extremely brave people came anyway.

-Glenn's Charlie Crist impression is quite lacking.

-George Soros! George Soros!

-There is a thing called the Tides Foundation and it is bad.

-The Apollo Foundation is the Tides Foundation is George Soros (this is almost a direct quote).

-Colorado "wasn't always a blue state."

-The common belief that California's fiscal crisis was brought about by extremely dysfunctional state and local governance and a broken ballot initiative system is inaccurate, as the real cause was progressives.

-Sharron Angle was "some chick you've never heard of" before she exploded onto the political scene.

-Glenn talks a huge amount, even for a talk-show host.

-Glenn is discouraged by the negative, fear mongering tone of political ads on both sides.

-Glenn will randomly switch into baby talk or stereotypical-gay-guy talk or mentally-disabled-person talk when he wants to underline a point, in much the same way others will change their intonation or gesture a bit.

-The big unions are spending $200 million on this election cycle, which, if accurate, is a scary-sounding number when thrown about devoid of context.

-Come next year, prices on groceries will skyrocket, but Glenn's 9/12 project "will save us" by instilling the "12 values," which include—to take one example—thrift, which surely would be helpful during a period of rapid inflation.

-Jesus Christ you think I'm kidding but it's 50 minutes in and it's just been him talking the whole time how does he do this and a radio show every day it's like he has titanium vocal cords.

-It's hard to maintain any level of real outrage at Glenn when you're exposed to high dosages of him—some sort of neurological self-defense mechanism kicks in and you end up dissociating, almost like the part of your brain engaged in watching TV has a temporary lesion or something. It's not entirely unpleasant.

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Fox and Hounds

CNN has holograms and touch screens and teleporters and tachyon impulse starships, so why the hell was Chris Wallace scrawling crap on a $10 white board on Fox News a few minutes ago? His handwriting sucks. Also, he said that he's really worried that folks are going to undersell the historical significance of Republican gains should they be major. Me too, Chris. Me too.

It's funny how, according to these anchors (Blondie and Former Backup High School Cornerback), every Democratic loss can be tied directly to cap-and-trade or health care reform or the stimulus bill--in short, to Obama.

I am shocked--*shocked*--that no one on Fox News has yet pointed out that incumbents always have a very difficult time when the economy isn't doing well, or that the cyclical nature of electoral politics means that we can't infer too much causality between a given legislative vote and a given electoral outcome. This more nuanced take is on the way, I'm sure. Probably when Sarah Palin comes on in a bit.

Oh, and Joe Manchin won his race, say Blondie and FBHSC, because he shot cap-and-trade in that one commercial (I hear if you shoot it in the head, it goes down for good--otherwise it just keeps ambling toward you and your small business).

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Sarah Palin Talks Trains, and Rand Paul Makes Me Feel Extreme Pain

Sarah Palin in the house on Fox! She just gave her thoughts (or "thoughts"), and she chose to run (ride?) a train-based metaphor to help explain to us, the lay viewers, what's going on in terms we can understand. (A snide person would say this is a strange choice on her part, given that an America run by Palin probably wouldn't have any trains at all, trains being a rather brazen example of the redistribution of transportation resources to those unable to afford cars.)

What we're seeing out there in Real America, Palin explained, is that "the train's leaving the station. The president and his advisers and his colleagues and supporters can jump on board that train, but it's headed in a different direction, and the direction is going to be one of a more conservative bent." So wait... if the train is going in a direction which is one of a more conservative bent, as it were, why would the president and his contingent be on it? Wouldn't they jump off it, or at the very least catch a different train? What if the trains collide? Where would we be then?

After Palin's time in the conductor's seat came Rand Paul's acceptance speech. In the hierarchy of English-language phrases and how they make me feel, "Rand Paul's acceptance speech" sits at the same level as "Michael Moore striptease" and "back-arcingly powerful bowel movement."

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Eric Cantor's Tax-Cut Jujitsu

Few things in politics are more maddening than listening to staunch conservatives talk about taxes. I disagree with them vehemently on plenty of fronts, of course, but there's no other area in which they wallow so pigfully (when you've been watching cable news for six hours you've earned the right to use nonexistent words) in their willful ignorance. Their intellectual universe isn't large enough to accommodate the concept of a justifiable tax increase, and it leads to policies and proposals as vicious as they are stupid. If I followed this stuff as closely as Jon Chait, I'd be in a padded room somewhere.

So--surprise!--when Eric Cantor went on MSNBC and started talking about taxes, it wasn't pretty.

Cantor, of course, wants to extend the Bush tax cuts. But when Rachel Maddow asked where he was going to find the funds to make up for the revenue that would be lost if they were extended, he pulled a bit of rhetorical jujitsu: They're not tax cuts! Since next year taxes will either stay the same or go up, no one's talking about tax cuts.

This is clever in the way it's clever when you lend a three-year-old your hat, you ask for it back, and he hides it behind his back and says, "What hat?" Obviously you know he's got your hat because he's not very big and doesn't quite have the motor skills to pull it off--but then he still won't give it back and you tell his parents (the rest of the Republican leadership) what happened and they just chuckle and say, "What hat? We don't see a hat." And then they high-five their son, hoist him up on their shoulders, and saunter away, the kid wearing your hat. And you're out a hat (much-needed revenue).

Ladies and gentleman, your House majority leader.

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Mike Huckabee, Taxes, and 'Jackass 3-D'

A few minutes ago on Fox News, potential Republican presidential candidate and political analog to Jared from Subway Mike Huckabee chipped in his two cents.

"If he really wants to bring some level of leadership back and get control of his own agenda again," Huckabee said of President Obama, "he's gonna have to show some level of humility, he'll have to approach this with a sense of, 'The people spoke, I listened.'" Asked what issues Democrats and Republicans could potentially cooperate on, he said an extension of the Bush tax cuts.

So, to review: Assuming divided control of the House and Senate, the Democratic president should agree, in order to "get control of his own agenda," to extend one of the signature 21st-century legislative victories of the opposition party--an issue on which there are fundamental philosophical differences between most Democrats and most Republicans.

Wouldn't it suck to be married to Mike Huckabee? "Okay, honey. I know I wanted to see Jackass 3-D and you wanted to see The Social Network, but I'm confident we can work through our differences. I'm all about comity and compromise, so why don't we see Jackass 3-D? For the sake of our marriage, you should agree to my offer." 

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/midterm-elections/78889/covering-the-coverage-the-2010-elections-and-losing-my-mind