FiveThirtyEight’s analysis of the 2016 electorate shows that Hillary Clinton’s loss was indeed due to low voter turnout. Apparently, high numbers of Democrats and Independents (and even a good number of Republicans) didn’t feel it necessary to go out and make a choice between two horrible candidates.
Who could have predicted such a thing? Turns out, it was easy to spot as far back as June 2015. As (obviously) any dolt could see, Clinton’s strong numbers against a fractured Republican field belied real issues among key demographics. And the issue wouldn’t be losing votes to the eventual Republican nominee, but in losing raw voters period. Polling can offer people a chance to see preferences, but judging intensity of preference requires a deeper reading of the numbers.
On its face, FiveThirtyEight’s analysis gives Clinton supporters some cover: They can claim that if the turnout had only been higher, their team would have won. (If only it hadn’t been for James Comey/the Russians/fake news/okay maybe Comey again?) But such face-saving leaves unanswered questions about why turnout was so low. Refusing to vote is a vote, as well. People think of political campaigns as an effort to get a voter to choose candidate A over candidate B, but in reality the first challenge is getting voters to make the choice at all.
Back in the early-to-mid-1990s, Cooper was a star reporter for Channel One News, a 15-minute news program that gave advertisers a way into the classroom in exchange for free TVs. (It sounds nefarious, but it wasn’t such a bad trade-off.) Much of the show dealt with “serious teen issues” in the way one would expect such a show to deal with them – in a way that virtually guaranteed no credibility with the target audience.
The silver lining was Cooper’s reporting, which often put him in harm’s way:
Cooper dodged bullets to bring places like the Balkan peninsula into the classroom in a way history and social studies teachers could not, and he did this for a 15-minute show for a target audience that was probably ignoring the show to do the math homework I was supposed to do the night before. (I mean they… the math homework they were supposed to… aw, forget it.)
So it’s not all that shocking that, when the American news media finally got in the middle of the scrum in Egypt, it would be Cooper jumping in.
Phil Donahue accused MSNBC of trying to “out-fox Fox” when it fired him in 2003. He meant it as a slight to MSNBC’s political leanings, but it goes a little deeper than that. Fox’s format is based on a complement of breaking news during the day (often car chases and such) and heavy opinion and analysis during primetime. (It should be noted that Donahue was 175 at the time MSNBC canceled him, though.)
There’s the formula for news success in primetime. Fox got to the top of the ratings with O’Reilly and Hannity and Colmes (before Colmes bounced); MSNBC – which was all but dead in the early 2000s – rebounded with Olbermann and Maddow on the other side of the aisle.
Neither network’s success is purely ideological – each of those four programs features strong, unique personalities. News channel viewers aren’t looking for news at all; they’re looking for people they either love or love to hate. Enter the Love Gov – who, despite the fact that he’ll be sitting opposite a Pulitzer Prize winner, will be the headliner on what is ostensibly a news show.
But will another personality show succeed?
If everyone in a shopping mall is selling shoes, and you open up a new shoe store, folks are going to need a compelling reason to leave their existing shoe store and come to yours – especially since they already have so many options. And selling the same types of shoes as every other store doesn’t give you an advantage. So the new show will have to have more than just a controversial name to bring in viewers.
Of course, if Spitzer interviews Marion Barry every now and then, CNN might have ratings gold on their hands.