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One of the more annoying behaviors of our political pundit class is the wholesale substitution of their own views for those of "the voters," or "the military," or "soccer moms," or "people who drink beer." When a talking head states that "the voters" don't care about a candidate's age or that "the military" doesn't trust a candidate who favors diplomacy, they describe large, diverse populations as if they were homogeneous, unified groups. Utterances such as these magically make all diversity and complexity disappear into a smoky cloud of generality.

It's like those real estate shows on HGTV where an anonymous real estate maven tells a pair of nervous homeowners that "the buyer" wants an open floor plan, or granite counter tops, or stainless appliances, or a neutral color for the bedroom walls. Who is "the buyer"? Not me. My bedroom wall has a mural depicting the life of Red Auerbach. Suck on that, buyers.

Pundits who parrot such an essentializing discourse perform a grave disservice to our national conversation on important -- even critical -- issues as they utterly misrepresent the true nature and variety of opinion in favor of a reductive shorthand. But since that is easier than doing research or conducting surveys -- you know, reporting -- we can be certain that "the reporters" will pretty much stink it up forever.

Hey, here's a good example I found today on the website Open Secrets. Turns out one of the best-kept secrets of the 2008 election is that "the military" isn't really giving a lot of their hard-earned, tax-free, wartime dollars to Republican candidates -- even though everyone knows that "the military" supports the conservative presidential candidate automatically. In fact, as it turns out, "the military" seems to be giving more money to the Democratic nominee for president this time around. A lot more:

According to an analysis of campaign contributions by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Democrat Barack Obama has received nearly six times as much money from troops deployed overseas at the time of their contributions than has Republican John McCain [. . .]

And significantly, this isn't only the case with the military personnel who've been getting shot at and blown up in war zones:

Despite McCain's status as a decorated veteran and a historically Republican bent among the military, members of the armed services overall -- whether stationed overseas or at home -- are also favoring Obama with their campaign contributions in 2008, by a $55,000 margin. Although 59 percent of federal contributions by military personnel has gone to Republicans this cycle, of money from the military to the presumed presidential nominees, 57 percent has gone to Obama.

Seems to me that this should be a pretty big story. Or at least make it to the news ticker at the bottom of my screen. Nope, Man Catches Fish.

I wonder what's on "My House is Worth WHAT??"

[More, over at]

Originally posted to stockphrase on Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 03:06 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  i like HGTV (9+ / 0-)

    House Hunters International shows how affordable (and green) housing is everywhere else.

  •  Don't dis HGTV (11+ / 0-)

    I'm hooked.

    John McCain: Vowing to connect real leaders with real bowels

    by chicago minx on Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 03:11:02 PM PDT

  •  one thing about HGTV (13+ / 0-)

    It has probably done more for gay and lesbian rights than anything else in the past 5 years. Where else will the average soccer mom/housewife/stereotype see gay and lesbians couples in a normalized setting every day?

  •  HGTV (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dansk47, lgmcp, chicago minx, OWO

    isn't trying to say individuals don't vary, but that if you are marketing a house, the predominant taste is x,y, and z and that neutral and clutterless backgrounds don't distract buyers with what they don't like.  And its usually based on some pretty good market research.  Which is why green oriented shows are starting to pop up on the channel.

    If wingnuts' policies followed majority opinion and minimizing distracting clutter in the same way HGTV does, there would be no need to talk about right wing policy, it would cease to matter.

    •  good thought (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      luku, lgmcp, jfromga, OWO

      If wingnuts' policies followed majority opinion and minimizing distracting clutter in the same way HGTV does,

      1. our troops would be on the way home (if not here already)
      1. we would have a health care system that worked
      1. our veteran's would have the benefits they deserve
      1. maybe even an education system that was fair to all.

      really, there are so many things that could go on that list...

      -6.25 -5.33 "Didn't Jesus leave instructions?" George Carlin

      by dansk47 on Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 03:21:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  btw If you DO have a Red Auerbach mural (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nerdsie, OWO

    on your bedroom wall--all I can say is, good luck selling.  It's a buyer's market.

    John McCain: Vowing to connect real leaders with real bowels

    by chicago minx on Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 03:29:21 PM PDT

  •  An interesting note on military donors (0+ / 0-)

    The study looked at military donations $200 or greater, which led the study group to believe that these were the senior-ranking enlisteds and officers and not so much the rank and file. Given the military's top-down workings, these seniors have quite a bit of sway in subordinate's thinking.

  •  I have grown weary of HGTV (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mehitabel9, Nerdsie

    and their insane promotion of "bigger, bigger, bigger" houses and fake "green" postures. You will note their concept of "green" only includes buying relatively expensive products. Although there have been hundreds of books on reduce, reuse, recycle, their ultimate advice runs to "buy this."

    I also think they have had more than an little to do in promoting the housing bubble/crash. Over and over, I watched House Hunters and the ever-expanding housing "requirements." A couple expecting their first child can no longer survive in a three-bedroom house, two adult partners with no children in sight must have four bedrooms, a single man needs a three-bedroom McMansion.

    But most appalling was the promoted financial arrangements. I kept asking myself "how can these people afford these houses?" A single-earner family of six whose breadwinner is a minister in a $1.5 million house, a single firefighter buying a $300,000 suburban home with 3 bedrooms and two living rooms, an artist-father and schoolteacher-mother with 3 small children buying a 5 bedroom McMansion. They promote as "must have" and "normal" a lifestyle financed on subprime and Alt-A lending -- egged on by "real estate experts" in their 20s who brag about their "experience" but apparently know nothing about basic economics. I wonder how many of those people still have those houses, or any house for that matter.

    At the same time, HGTV systematically did away with shows like Kitty Barthelomew or Decorating Cents that focused on keeping what you have and making it work without buying tons of "must-have" products. Gone are crafts shows, Room By Room, and Weekend Warriors, replaced with I Want That and What's My House Worth? (HINT: 35% less than it was last year, but you'll never know that by watching HGTV). Some shows shifted to DIY, which is not generally on basic cable, but even there they are subject to the most erratic programming I have ever seen.

    "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." -- Elie Wiesel

    by carolita on Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 04:12:22 PM PDT

    •  Well, you just wrote my comment for me. (0+ / 0-)

      Thanks for sparing me the trouble.  HGTV is little more than a 24/7 infomercial channel anymore.  I used to be hooked; now I hardly ever bother.  (Decorating Cents has always been my fave HGTV show... and since I never see it anymore I can only assume it's been canceled).

      It is really, really too bad.  I'm trying to sell my house right now and even though it's a great house at a great price, buyers keep passing on it because, I'm told, I don't have granite countertops and I don't have a two-car garage.  I do have a large one car garage and offstreet parking for an additional two cars, but that ain't good enough for these folks.

      Choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil. -- teacherken

      by Mehitabel9 on Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 05:31:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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