Scoring the Idea Race

By Rosen, Jay | The Nation, March 4, 1996 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Scoring the Idea Race


Rosen, Jay, The Nation


From Iowa and New Hampshire comes sad news about the press: It is still addicted to the horse race, a nasty drug. With "who's ahead?" remaining the master narrative, we press critics need to face facts. For years we have joined in post-election seminars where journalists worried aloud about their fascination with "process" at the expense of "substance." To me, these regrets seem deeply felt. But the horse race runs deeper; it is a metaphor with tenacious roots. Some of the best press criticism in years has attacked the thing but it holds firm.

Time, then, for a different approach. On behalf of those who still hope for some content in politics, we say this to the press:

"You win. Politics is a horse race, especially at election time. So tell us who's ahead, but in the contest of ideas - in the march to intelligibility that the voters need these candidates to make. Trail them around and ask provocative questions. But what you'll be asking for is their views on everything important to us, and we have a large agenda. Be skeptical, tough. Keep in mind, however, that we need to benefit from your toughness. Even in the media age, politics belongs to us as citizens. It's our campaign."

What would it mean for a citizen to have "perfect" information about the contenders and their views? Everything a candidate has to say and proposes to do about every issue that matters - this, let us say, is perfect information. Any movement toward this utopian state is progress in the "race" to complete a Candidate's Public Profile.

The C.P.P. is the public's file on the guy - or gal. It's "complete" when it includes everything a citizen needs to know - and deliberate about - before casting an intelligent vote. A completed public profile is how a candidate appears when his or her politics have been made perfectly clear to us, when he or she comes sharply into view as a political "figure" against the background of our deepest concerns.

Remember, this is a concept, an alternative conceit, intended to redirect the horse-race narrative so that it writes a more public story, one that is less a product of money, manipulation and the obsessions of journalists. The C.P.P. thus becomes the aim of serious reporting: what journalists are trying to do, first and well. They race to get their candidates' C.P.P.s "up and running" (in the online sense) because the quicker they sketch a usable profile, the quicker they can start deepening it.

As the profiles get redrawn each week, the candidates' movement from vague outline to discernible "figure" drives the story onward. Journalists compete to make the campaign address public concerns. They practice a kind of civic aggression, forcing the candidates' "story" and our own to meet.

This can work only if journalists know which issues matter - to us. The themes at play in the media campaign are often not the ones we want aired. What results is a big reporting challenge: Inquire of the relevant political public what people expect the candidates to address. Again, it's our campaign. To our reasonable expectations the press can add its own judgment, since issues that aren't on the public's radar screen may yet be important.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Scoring the Idea Race
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.