December 17, 2015

THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL:

The Best 2016 Campaign Book Is About 1988 (Francis Barry, 12/17/15, Bloomberg View)

The best way to understand the 2016 presidential campaign is to read "What It Takes," Richard Ben Cramer's 1992 masterpiece on the 1988 presidential primary. If you don't have time to read its 1,047 pages, here are some of its most important insights.

Ignore the early polls. Six weeks before the 1988 Iowa caucuses, former Senator Gary Hart displaced Senator Paul Simon as the front-runner, with Representative Dick Gephardt pulling 6 percent. Hart also had a big lead over his nearest rival, Jesse Jackson, in national polls. What did these polls mean? Nothing. Gephardt won Iowa, Simon finished third, Hart's candidacy collapsed, and Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis won the nomination. Voters don't pay much attention until the weeks before voting begins. Discussion of the horse race before the first turn often amounts to a pile of manure.  [...]

Beware the media's herd mentality. Cramer, a career journalist, called the beat reporters who covered the campaign "diddybops," while the pundits and bureau chiefs were "bigfeet." Together, they formed a Greek chorus, narrating the campaign mostly in unison without realizing they were often missing the big picture. Today, so much of what is written by the diddybops and their tweetybop descendants remains near-sighted, making it harder to see the candidates and race clearly. 

Posted by at December 17, 2015 7:28 PM

  

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