Hillary’s Nomination Fight Complicated by Media Expectations

11 Mar 2016

Hillary Clinton's Must Watch Speech on Race 1

The New York Times editorial board, after penning a glowing endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, now chastises her for going hard at her opponent Bernie Sanders at last Sunday’s debate.  If I have this correctly, Sanders can daily infer she is a corrupt oligarch – obfuscating her excellent record – and she must stand there while he does it, never attack him and make sure to be the “unity candidate” to boot.  Sanders promised not to run a negative campaign. That went out the window as soon as 1) he got addicted to the roar of the crowd and 2) saw that despite his huge rallies, he was losing.  Why isn’t The New York Times telling Senator Sanders to rein it in with baseless character attacks on the likely Democratic nominee?

This is yet another of the sexist hoops Hillary has to jump through in order to be considered acceptable to the mainstream press.

NYT also attributed her narrow but shocking loss in the Michigan primary to her going negative on Sanders regarding his vote against TARP and the auto bailout. But is their assessment correct? Michigan is an open primary, so anybody can vote for anybody. Hillary clearly won Democrats by a healthy margin, even with 7% of Dems guiltily asked for Republican ballots in an effort to stop the demagogic Donald Trump.  Several reporters also shared on Twitter that owing to Hillary’s 20 point lead in Michigan polls, some voters felt comfortable staying home, thinking she had it in the bag.

This is not to bypass Sanders’ victory there, but mainstream media’s addiction to polling and click bait over issues sets up a vicious expectations game where Clinton can never hope to break even. Of the 18 states that have voted, Hillary leads Sanders by almost 1.7 million in the popular vote and over 220 pledged delegates. She is the only woman in history to have EVER won a binding primary – and she’s won many of them decisively, which means, she is making history every single day.

Her blowout win in Mississippi that same night was all but ignored though it awarded her far more in the delegate race than the few that Sanders’ scored. No matter.  News media cut away from her victory speech to host yet another Trump infomercial.  Sanders’ campaign, to its credit, even tweeted about the disrespect the networks showed Secretary Clinton.

So either network news is pretending she is losing when she isn’t – or, that her lead is so vast, she can “coast” and we can stay home. Clearly, neither narrative holds water and can only be damaging to her going forward.

She needs every single vote, if for no other reason that the media will continue to judge her by different standards. Only convincing numbers will get them to acknowledge her place as the rightful nominee.

As well, reporters like MSNBC’s Chris Hayes have recently taken to handwringing about the endorsements of unpledged super delegates  (comprised of senior party officials), likely because Hillary has 461 of them and Sanders has 25.  Yet in 2008, super delegates are the reason that then-Senator Obama was able to lay claim to the nomination at the end of a long, razor close primary contest, as neither he nor Hillary had enough pledged delegates to claim the nod outright.

Hillary now leads Sanders by far more pledged delegates than Obama led Hillary at any point in 2008. Yet there was no handwringing as to the outcome then. In fact, Hillary and her supporters were told in no uncertain terms by every mainstream media outlet and pundit to sit down, shut up and “play by the rules.”  She did, insisting her supporters follow suit. In fact, she proposed Senator Obama be nominated by acclamation at the Convention, not only surrendering her near 2,000 delegates, but later making 180 campaign appearances to help get him elected. Mainstream media has not given her credit for the same, many still besmirching her as “ego driven and power hungry.”

In 2016, expecting Hillary to “make nice” when reporters ask her about fictitious “pending indictments” (yeah, we’re talking to you Univision’s Jorge Ramos) and her opponents on both sides dish innuendo upon her daily is a ridiculous requirement for any candidate.

Why are women candidates expected to serve up softballs when men can go for the jugular without reproach? Pundits like to pretend Hillary is “dull,” while at the same time excoriating her for not playing “mommy” and cleaning up after everyone else. They criticize her for being a hausfrau and get pissy when she doesn’t act like one. Goldilocks’ porridge will always be too hot or too cold.

When David Axelrod, Bob Woodward and others criticize her “tone”, her voice, her “shouting,” once I stop steaming, I take it as a compliment – clearly this means they have so little to criticize in terms of her preparedness and policies, they must resort to nitpicking and identity politics.

Focused on minutia that will never matter a damn to the American people, tony pundits can afford to be elitist.  We cannot.

Maybe it’s time we started appreciating our embarrassment of riches with a more than capable candidate and stop allowing media to exercise outsize influence over our elections. The expectations game hurts us, not them.


Anita Finlay is the bestselling author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin — the untold story of Hillary’s 2008 campaign and the bias plaguing women who dare to lead.  #1 on Amazon’s Women in Politics books for 16 weeks.

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