Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Earlier today I posted, then deleted, a grumble about what seems to be the premature end of the Democratic nomination process. I deleted it when I read this asinine column by Slate's William Saletan and realized that what I'd written implied that I share his view -- which is that Al Gore somehow did harm to democracy by endorsing Howard Dean.

I do think that people who aren't actively involved in the political process, or who aren't willing or able to spend a lot of time poring over political news, are likely to feel alienated if the nominee in what seemed to be a wide-open contest is all but decided before a single vote is cast. But that's not Al Gore's fault, as Saletan stupidly argues -- it's the media's fault for overemphasizing the horse race (and doling out coverage based on who's up in the polls) while showing little or no interest in informing the public about policy differences among candidates.

(As Atrios reveals in painful detail, in tonight's debate it took nineteen questions before a candidate was asked anything about policy.)

If you run a good campaign in the months leading up to the early primaries and caucuses, you should do well in the early primaries and caucuses -- you shouldn't already be declared the winner before those votes are cast. That's how it should work, but the press likes to anoint a winner prematurely. Gore is taking advantage of that, which he has every right to do. He's not preventing anyone from voting for another candidate, as Saletan (I'm not making this up) implies.

Of course, surprises are still possible. But I do suspect this thing is over. However, it might not be if the press took its responsibilities seriously.

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