In the Commonwealth I currently call home, the fight for Virginia’s governorship is becoming downright Jerseyan thanks to Creigh Deed’s attempt to leverage an old grad school paper written by Bob McDonnell.
Deeds is following an important rule – when negative information is out there about an opponent, the best thing is to keep it alive for as long as possible. Since the McDonnell thesis is 90 pages long, the Deeds folks have selected the juiciest clips and added their editorial content. It’s a good way for them to excite a base which is currently unexcited and raise some money.
Missing in a lot of the coverage is a link to the actual thesis. I had to do about 20 minutes of searching before I found and downloaded McDonnel’s work. If you haven’t actually read the thesis, it really is heavy on the involvement of church and family, but also has some harsh treatment of federal social programs – such as welfare, which was reformed six years later.
Since few voters will bother to read 90 pages, they may go back to their own memories of writing college papers. How many people who took political science or current events courses would want their words revisited? During my time at UMass, the Journalism department offered a class called “The Press and the Third World.” I took it during my sophomore year, and usually sat next to a friend of mine with whom I worked at the campus radio station’s sports department. (The class fulfilled a requirement for our major, but we were both aspiring sports journalists. The subject matter was not in our area of expertise.) Every Tuesday, our professor would look over the New York Times – what he called the “newspaper of record” for America – and express disgust that the Third World was rarely covered. And when it was, he would express disgust that the stories would only cover corruption, violence, or the bizarre.
We could have pointed out that the local Springfield, Mass. television stations only covered corruption, violence, or the bizarre in Western Massachusetts, or that regional news outlets usually cover the regions they are based in. We could have pointed out that his gripe was with media in general, not in American media’s treatment of the Third World. Actually, one of our classmates brought that up during discussion one day, and was shouted down by other students as the professor encouraged them. My friend and I shut our mouths, parroted back the professor’s comments when it was time to take a test, accepted our A- grades and went back to WMUA to cover sports. The content of those papers would be wholly inconsistent with the content of this blog, but the Worker’s World Party might enjoy them. (Although, I believe I criticized Jon Stewart’s coverage of the Middle East in my final paper.)
With a heavily college-educated voting populace who can identify with the college writing process, McDonnell’s thesis may not have quite the impact that Deeds would hope.