The Difference-Makers

I’ve been a little bit surprised by the number of liberals who’ve been eager to proclaim John McCain’s 2008 campaign to be the most vile and dishonorable thing they’ve ever witnessed. It struck me as less vile and dishonorable than the other presidential campaigns (2004, 2000, 1996) that I remember. At any rate, Brad DeLong says:

# Yes, John McCain ran a dirty campaign. But it was a less dirty campaign than any Republican has run since… well, since the memory of man runneth (with the possible exception of Ford 1976). The difference this year was that — for some reason — this year a fraction of the mainstream press called them on it rather than ignoring it entirely.

I think the “for some reason” here is pretty clear: It’s the infrastructure, stupid. Organizations like Think Progress, TPM Media, The Huffington Post, Media Matters, and Progressive Accountability have ensured that there are dozens of people working, every day, to shoot down bogus storylines and to highlight especially egregious behavior. And those institutions are connected to a vast web of individual or small-group blogs that together form a sea in which long-existing progressive publications like The American Prospect, Mother Jones, The Nation, and The Washington Monthly all swim, all reaching much broader audiences than they could in their strictly print days. New, more progressive columnists with ties to those institutions like Harold Meyerson and Paul Krugman have joined The Washington Post and New York Times op-ed pages. Television programs open to progressive ideas hosted by Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow have appeared on cable.

To make a long story short, the Obama-McCain matchup is taking place in a very different media context from the Kerry-Bush matchup in 2004. And Kerry-Bush happened in a very different context than Gore-Bush in 2000. And I think it’s no coincidence that as progressive infrastructure gets bigger and stronger, it gets harder and harder for conservative media strategies to work. The press’s all-out war against Gore galvanized people and have created institutions designed to fight back against that kind of garbage.