Amy Surging! Tulsi Struggling! (Actually they are tied)

How the media creates a narrative

Make sure before you read you…

By Krystal

Perhaps even more interesting than the disparate way the media covers the top three candidates is the incredibly disparate way that the media covers the lower polling candidates. Which candidates are “extreme longshots” and which ones are “getting a second look!” Which candidates are perpetually poised for a comeback and which are obviously going nowhere and should just drop out immediately. Case in point, two candidates very much in the news this week: Tulsi Gabbard and Amy Klobuchar.

Tulsi was in the news because Hillary Clinton decided to emerge to make yet another excuse for her loss (Jill Stein!) and to accuse Tulsi, a decorated Iraq War Veteran of being a Russian asset. This idea was of course planted by the media. More on that in a moment. Klobuchar was randomly in the news because a bunch of political journalists decided for no reason I could discern that she had a great debate and has “wind in her sails.”  

Now according to the RCP Average of Polls, Gabbard and Klobuchar are basically tied. Tulsi at 1.5% and Klobuchar at 1.8%. Neither has qualified for the next debate. Yet one is treated like a nuisance gadfly beneath the dignity of Hillary while the other is treated like a centrist savior who at any moment will ascend to the top tier status they were obviously destined for. Here were some of the Klobuchar headlines of just the past 2 days:

New York Times: In Iowa, Amy Klobuchar Gets a Second Look After Debate

Politico: It sure feels like Buttigieg and Klobuchar have wind in their sails

In the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin called Klobuchar her “Distinguished Pol of the Week.” Hilarious.

I could go on but you get it and have no doubt seen the coverage yourself. The way these analysis pieces are typically written is basically political journalists decide on a storyline. “Amy’s making a comeback!” and then they set off in search of voters and “strategists” who will back up that assertion so as to make it appear that they aren’t just writing up their opinion that Amy Klobuchar is a centrist queen but that it’s the voters who are flocking over to tell them how amazing she is fighting against healthcare for all. It’s incredibly insidious and of course affects how voters actually do think about the candidates. If they read over and over again enough that Amy had an incredible performance and voters are flocking to her and she’s the one to beat Trump, it no doubt will have an impact on perception, even if it was mostly an invented storyline to start with. Then perhaps it shows up as a modest boost in the polling numbers and then the political journalists get to write all over again about how that candidate is surging in the polls just like they predicted on the heels of that amazing debate performance!

So contrast this Amy Klobuchar is surging! Narrative with the coverage of Tulsi Gabbard this week as part of the nasty smear leveled at her by Hillary Clinton. Tulsi, who again is polling roughly the same as Amy, and certainly has a lot more demonstrated grassroots energy than Amy online and in person, was overwhelmingly portrayed as an unhelpful lost cause gadfly. What’s more, the whole Russian asset narrative propagated by Hillary was itself set into motion by the media!

First, The New York Times Lisa Lerer wrote a classic guilt by association red-baiting hit piece on Tulsi titled: “What, Exactly, Is Tulsi Gabbard Up To? As she injects chaos into the 2020 Democratic primary by accusing her own party of “rigging” the election, an array of alt-right internet stars, white nationalists and Russians have praised her.

In addition to a litany of predictable smears and posing the question “What is Tulsi up to?” without actually you know, asking Tulsi what she’s up to, they characterized her campaign both as deeply threatening (RUSSIA!) but also completely failing saying she’s “struggled to make headway.”  

Unsurprisingly, this New York Times piece essentially accusing Tulsi of being a Russian asset was closely followed by Hillary Clinton picking up the thread and calling Tulsi a Russian asset, filling in the suggestive blanks left by the New York Times about what, exactly Tulsi Gabbard is up to.

Then, the journalist who wrote the original hit piece wrote an unintentionally hilarious analysis of the Tulsi/Hillary fight in which she proclaimed that Hillary is living her best life and delighting fans as she gives “zero, uh, cares.” Yes, I’m sure what Hillary was really hoping was that in 2019 she would be sending out embarrassing Trump tweets “Corrupt human tornado!” and randomly slandering fellow Americans as Russian assets. Naturally, that piece also derisively referred to Tulsi’s “stuck-in-the-single-digits campaign” thus completing the cycle. Trash Tulsi, cover Hillary trashing Tulsi, Trash Tulsi again. Meanwhile, how bout that Kickin Klobuchar?!

So there you have it folks. A tale of two narratives created and spun out of whole cloth by the media to two very different ends. And y’all wonder why everyone hates you.