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 Ihatewhatyoujustsaid.com]