The Liberal Media, in Love With Our Narrative
We are the liberal media—hear us roar. We like Aaron Sorkin and gay marriage and invitations to the New Yorker’s bash on the roof of the W Hotel on the eve of the White House Correspondents Dinner. We have Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer’s cell phone on speed dial. If you water-boarded us, we’d admit to voting for pretty much every Democratic presidential candidate for the past two decades, with the possible exception of Al Gore in 2000 (he didn’t give us a clever nickname; the other guy did.)
But we are not driven by politics or ideology, really. Above all, we love a good story. Which, after all, is a very deeply ingrained yearning of the human race, isn’t it? Anthropologists will tell you it is what sets us apart from the beasts—after all, when’s the last time you saw a cat or a dog telling an anecdote at a cocktail party or reading a bedtime story to their offspring? Yeah, didn’t think so. We crave narrative. And let’s face it, the narrative of the 2012 campaign was a real dud. Incumbent president faces tough reelection environment but manages to hold onto slim, steady lead thanks to a just-enough recovery and a singularly uninspiring challenger. I remember being in a Dayton hotel the morning after Mitt Romney’s 47 percent remarks broke and watching the head-shaking reaction of Morning Joe and his crew: it left them with nothing to say. Which is a problem, because, well, they had many more weeks of needing something to say.
But then: our mile-high salvation! Denver, O Denver. As the dynamic of the first debate began to register just a few minutes in—the crisp and hopped-up Romney against the wordy and listless president—we sang our relief across the Twitterverse. The true partisans among us, the Maddows and Sullivans, rent their garments, but most of us were barely able to suppress our glee: we had ourselves a story. Never mind that the debate had produced no great knockdowns, or that, as some noted in the days following, Obama had actually made a decent substantive case in some areas, if not others. No, we had our story. It went up at Buzzfeed before the debate was even half over, before the snap polls even provided the nominal metric to back up the conclusion of a Romney rout. Politico followed soon afterward with an “Obama stumbles” headline that led the site for most of the rest of the night and following morning. Meanwhile, of course, Chris Matthews et al at MSNBC were in full meltdown. If one put one’s ear to the ground, one could all but hear the herd thundering back across the eastern Colorado plains to deliver its new narrative.
And lo, in the days that followed, the power of our story bore out across the land. Romney surged in the polls, in a post-debate bounce unlike any ever recorded. Never mind that closer inspection suggested that his rise had begun just before the debate, as Obama’s prior bounce abated. As we like to say in private company, this story was too good to check. We had a comeback on our hands, and as the San Francisco Giants can tell you today, there’s no better story than a comeback.