Are journalists stupid to talk about whether voters are stupid?

Slate | Politico | The New York Times
Dave Weigel says it would be journalistic malpractice to not report on the dumb voters one encounters on the campaign trail: “There’s a big difference,” he writes, between “random voter interviews and ‘nutpicking,’ when only the craziest, most bigoted clowns at some event are photographed and quoted.”

But the most exotic participants in United States electoral politics, Weigel says, don’t swing elections: “There are Mississippi Republicans who hate Obama because they think he’s a Muslim. Take that away, and they’ll hate him because they’re conservatives and he isn’t. Only 11 percent of Mississippi whites voted for Barack Obama, but only 14 percent voted for John Kerry.”

The are-voters-stupid issue kicked off last week with a piece in Politico that attenuated its criticisms of U.S. voters a little finer than Weigel; Alexander Burns may have wanted to talk about why voters blame incumbent presidents for high gas prices despite the Oval Office having little sway over them, but his point got a little swamped by the photo of Forrest Gump atop his piece.

David Carr groups the bad optics of Burns’ story with Newt Gingrich’s attacks on the elite media. “A little memo to both Mr. Gingrich and Politico: Many people in America are struggling with brutal choices, like whether to pay for child care or medical coverage, so forgive them if they are not completely up to date on every nuance of the Beltway politics parlor game. It’s too bad that the primary process involves messy things like actual voters and a grimy press corps, but nobody ever said democracy would be pretty.”

Actual elites are far too PR-savvy to be drawn into a debate about whether the people on whom they depend for their livings are boneheads. Talking this stuff out makes for gruesome headlines, but doing it in public is a net positive for journalists, no matter how many future applause lines it gives Newt Gingrich.

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  • Anonymous

    well, some dems and gops, too, voted against the bills. however, it is worth noting that many of the dems who opposed those bills (certainly in the south) soon became republicans (i.e. strom thurmond et al). that was the REASON they changed parties and primarily the reason the gop has had a strangle hold on the south ever since. you know. big guvamint, states rights etc., things barry goldwater campaigned on in 1964. in fact, i don’t think it can be disputed that if you take the leadership of lbj (a dem) out of the equation, those three civil rights bills DO — NOT — PASS.

  • Gary

     Many Democrats opposed that legislation. 

  • Anonymous

    obama probably didn’t get much more of the black vote than any white democrat running for presidcent has for, oh, 50 years. the reason? when your party’s presidential nominee (barry goldwater) and much of the party itself pointedly opposed the sweeping civil rights legislation of the mid-1960s (states rights issue, they argued), then why would ANY black EVER vote gop?

  • Anonymous

    i’m getting tired of hearing about “the media.” it is hardly a monolothic entity. further the so-called “liberal mainstream media” is more than countered by the the right-wing media (fox, talk radio, newsmax, town hall etc.). the right has a damn big megaphone of its own. so don’t let ‘em get away with a lie that big and that obvious. this notion — repeated over and over — that poor conservatives are being drowned out by evil liberals is totally ludicrous.

  • Casey Ryback


    Excuse the cyncism; escapees from Gannettoid-ism are a cynical lot.

    When the current U.S. President (Harvard Law) gets the same kinds and numbers of brutal, ugly reviews that the previous U.S. president (Harvard MBA) got — then they’ll get respect from the masses.

    Not one second sooner. Until then — “dumb” is in the eye of the beholder.

    LOL, ROTF at the “independent media.”

  • Gary

    Burns goes through the motions of criticizing both sides, but she gives away the game early in the piece when she laments how gas prices are hurting Obama. The timing is curious to say the least. If Obama wins re-election, suddenly “the voters are stupid theme” will go away – at least until his poll numbers start declining. Then it’s back to talking about those “racist Teabaggers” who hate Obama because he’s black.

  • Gary

    Did he criticize black voters in 2008 for voting for Obama because he’s black?

  • Rod Paul

    Nah, stupid is people who make stupid assumptions without bothering to read the linked articles – which do a decent job of criticizing voters of both stripes.

  • Gary

    What a load of crap. Did journalists consider voters stupid when they went with the media darling Obama in 2008? Not just no, but hell to the freaking no. The “voters are stupid” theme is really just a “conservatives are stupid” theme made superficially neutral. The question is not posed when the voters agree with MSM’s preferred candidate (always a Democrat) wins.