It’s been a little more than 48 hours since Elizabeth Warren announced that she was formally exploring a run for President in 2020, and already we are questioning whether she’s “likable” enough. Politico even ran a column asking if Warren could avoid the Hillary Problem. It then proceeded to run with every negative gendered stereotype ever ascribed to Warren, Clinton, or Nancy Pelosi; as a matter of inquiry, of course.
In the coming weeks, the media is going to want to talk about Warren’s Harvard salary, her Native American claim, the tone of her voice, and other nonsense, content-free “analysis.” Look for “But her DNA” to become the new “But her emails.”
In a few months, we can expect the same kinds of reporting about Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and maybe even Amy Klobuchar. Because the media has learned nothing from their role in the 2016 election.
We are still rehashing what went wrong in 2016. It comes up every time there is movement from Special Prosecutor Mueller’s office. As the conspiracy picture slowly becomes more clear however, we still can’t absolve journalists and pundits of their malpractice when it came to covering Hillary Clinton. It continues today.
Former Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook captured it perfectly on Twitter:
Elizabeth Warren has a rich and complicated history of policy advocacy. She is a professor and a politician. She has the rare ability to describe complex banking and other regulation to the average consumer or voter in terms those of us not educated in these practices can understand. How much of that will be covered in the coming months and how much will we instead be subjected to articles highlighting how people feel about her?
Regardless of what candidates we are covering or supporting, we should be talking, in whatever media available to us, about policy priorities. What are the various healthcare proposals? What will they take to implement? What steps can be taken to rein in campaign spending and lobbying corruption? How much public money is being spent on privatization efforts, and what are the returns to the taxpayers? How do we connect immediate action on climate change to economic prosperity? What are the plans for combatting gerrymandering and voter suppression?
Too much time in the news cycle is spent not on the details of a bill, or a regulation, but on how people react to what they have been told it means by the politicians. We spend so much time on poll numbers, slicing data to illustrate and emphasize a divided electorate, and not enough on describing what a proposal really means to the people in the real world. It’s not just the politicians who are disconnected, it’s the media too.
Look, those of us who write about politics love the horserace. But the horserace is the environment, it’s not valuable information.
Are you writing about a candidate? Examine your language. Have you described the candidate’s outfit, or hairdo, smile, or some other personal attribute that would never be mentioned about a male? Do you find yourself using adjectives that are generally reserved for women? Why? Are you writing serious political analysis, or a piece for the Styles section? What policy questions have you asked or researched?
It will be a long road to November, 2020. We cannot afford the outrageous detours of 2016. Let’s do better.