In Which We Project Our Own Attributes Onto the Voters

In a blog post concerning why Joe Biden hasn’t had traction in the democratic primaries, Matt Bai busts out the following train of thought:

I think Mr. Biden is less a victim of the media itself than of the distinct political culture that we in the media have wrought. Ten years of endless blather about the game of politics on cable TV have trained the most engaged American voters to handicap candidates rather than hear them, to pontificate about who might win rather than deciding whom they actually want to win. Voters seem to approach politics increasingly as pundits, and they look to poll numbers to tell them who’s electable and who isn’t, never stopping to realize that they are the ones who get to decide.

It’s cute, but utterly unpersuasive.  Think back to the last conversation about the primaries that you overheard–that is, one that you weren’t a part of, because you’re probably a political junkie, and you’d distort the sample.  Perhaps the last conversation you overheard featured two people talking about poll numbers and acting like pundits, but the last one I heard sounded as if it was beamed from Mars (or perhaps I was the Martian observing earthlings).  The people I heard vaguely knew that Hillary was ahead, but couldn’t have properly guessed at the poll numbers.  They weren’t pundits worried about who was electable, except perhaps so far as the media had efficiently conveyed that information to them, with it’s relatively narrow focus on the three front-runners.  So I’d recommend that Bai returns to the top of his paragraph and adopts the more parsimonious explanation:

From just chatting with voters around the state, the guess here is that Mr. Biden would be a significant force in the upcoming caucuses if Iowans actually thought he could win. They never have.  Mr. Biden’s supporters will tell you that this is all the media’s fault for not covering him more.

I’ll personally admit to having written Biden off when he opened his campaign by calling Obama “clean and articulate.”  I rather liked Al Sharpton’s response that he showered quite regularly, thank you much.


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