The Media's Brokered Convention Hypocrisy
During the current lull in actual voting contests in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, there has been little doubt about that the most prominent narrative point (non-Satan division) in the media has been related to the prospects of a "brokered convention."
If you Google "Republican Party Brokered Convention," over 6,000 recent articles come up under "news." Interestingly, the top three which showed up on my browser were all decidedly negative about the potential impact of such a convention on the GOP.
Even though less than 10 percent of the delegates to the convention have been chosen and historically the chances of no candidate receiving a majority of the votes needed to earn the nomination are exceedingly slim, this subject has also dominated the cable news coverage of the campaign ever since Rick Santorum's shocking win in Colorado.
To political junkies, this should not be a surprise. After all, ever since conventions became largely irrelevant in the 1980s, political reporters, much like typewriter salesmen, have openly pined for a confluence of events which might new breathe life into a largely dead institution.
They have done this for obvious reasons, none of which, of course, has anything to do with the health of the republic.
Media members, being among the most narcissistic people on the planet, have rooted for a brokered convention because it would help them personally. It would extend and heighten the interest level in their beat, it would take the pressure off of them having to beg to continue to travel to and cover a high-profile but meaningless event, and it would put the spotlight on them during what would be a highly rated, glorified reality TV show where their reporting sources may actually have some significance.
However, there are several elements which make this current brokered convention obsession particularly outrageous and provide further proof that our national conversation is badly broken.
First, there is a massive disparity between the coverage this subject is getting now and what it got in 2008 during the epic Democratic race for the nomination. If ever there was going to be a brokered convention in the modern era, that was the year. There were two candidates with extremely strong and demographically different followings, both of which would have represented historical firsts if nominated.
Most people don't realize that, because "super-delegates" were not officially committed, Barack Obama technically went into that convention without enough votes to ensure the nomination (a fact my wife, a public school teacher, actually got in trouble for sharing with her class because it somehow upset an Obama-supporting student). He had also been crushed in three of the last four major primaries and had diminished the delegate numbers from two major states which his opponent had won. And yet, despite the reality that this easily could have been turned into a grand drama by the media and that they would have benefited greatly from this narrative, nary a word was spoken about it. The few supporters of Hillary Clinton who even dared raise the issue were treated as if they had peed in the prom punch bowl.
There is probably no greater testament to the true love and devotion which the media felt for Obama in 2008 than the fact that they gave up a golden opportunity for a brokered convention in order to protect the momentum of the Chosen One.
Conversely, here early in 2012, there is already absolutely no hesitation on the part of all factions of the media to fantasize about how exciting a contested convention could be for the Republicans. It is obvious why the liberal mainstream media, desperate for a way to manufacture re-election for their guy, has taken this position, but this has also been especially true among significant parts of the conservative media as well.
The obvious financial incentive on the part of conservative outlets for there to be a brokered convention is probably the most blatantly underreported conflict of interest in modern political history. This of course is most blatant at Fox News, which, should there be a contested convention, would not only reap the largest ratings, but would also effectively be in the position of potentially dictating events. With two former (and likely future) employees likely to be in the mix and with almost every single delegate being a devoted Fox News watcher, their influence could be extraordinary during the chaos that would ensue during such a convention.
All of this makes the recent actions of two of Fox's most prominent personalities all the more troubling. The ultimate boss at Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, has been continually tweeting support for Rick Santorum, while commentator Sarah Palin has been practically campaigning for the type of convention which she herself has admitted could end up benefiting her (though, as a delegate to the 2008 convention, I can assure you she would have zero chance of being nominated there).
I have already written extensively about how Palin's motivations may be far less altruistic than what her supporters realize and how Fox should suspend her for effectively running a "stealth" presidential campaign (for the record, since it is dealt with in my film about her, I should point out here that her analogy between Santorum's Satan comments and hers asking for prayers that our soldiers in Iraq are on a task from God was not remotely valid). But what Palin is getting away with here is also representative of the larger reality that the conservative media in general has very little short-term incentive to act in a way that facilitates the defeat of President Obama.
Not only is a long, bloody, and dramatic primary battle good for business, but four more years of attacking an Obama presidency would be infinitely better/easier for conservative media outlets than would be the prospect of having to defend a boring Republican like Mitt Romney, whom their most ardent customers don't really like or trust.
Let there be no confusion, despite what Sarah Palin and others would like you to believe, there is absolutely no evidence that a brokered convention would be helpful to the cause of beating Obama.
There simply is no natural or even potential White Knight who could come in at the last moment and galvanize conservatives while still being electable. Any candidate who came out of such a process would be ill-prepared and seen as illegitimate as a reality show contestant who is allowed to rejoin the show near the conclusion after already having been eliminated from the competition. A majority of the American people (at least those under 50) just simply have no idea that picking someone new at a convention is even within the rules of the process.
In short, those who are telling conservatives who are understandably disenchanted with the remaining candidates that they can hold out hope that a miracle may occur in Tampa (as well as those who sit idly by without strongly questioning them) are, at best, dangerously ignorant of reality and negatively stunting the process. At worst, they are nothing more than modern-day snake oil salesmen who are actively acting against the interest of the cause of beating Obama, of which they claim to be so in favor.
John Ziegler is the creator of the documentary film about the 2008 election Media Malpractice... How Obama Got Elected and Palin Was Targeted.