The New York Times had a particularly annoying non-news bit of editorializing in their night-of writeup about Scott Brown’s upset victory (in the grand scheme, not the consistent polling). It said the Massachusetts Senate race “has riveted the attention of the nation” because of its implications for health care legislation and the Senate’s balance of power. BS.
Of course, if you talk to congressional staffers like I do, they know the ins and outs of the race. At my church small group tonight in the shadow of the Capitol, everyone was talking about the early ballot results before we started and checking their BlackBerrys as soon as we wrapped. But two other politically-savvy friends had no idea about this race until my roommate brought it up, and when I asked another inside-the-Beltway friend just now about Brown’s victory, he said, “How important is this? I mean, it’s just a congressman, right?”
Admittedly these are just personal anecdotes. But there’s a troubling tendency in the punditry and the press to inflate the importance of whatever is consuming their attention at the moment and analyze it in the crassest terms. Turnout was unusually high for a special election, but still just above 50 percent at the most-engaged communities. What could be more important than replacing the irreplaceable Ted Kennedy and setting this country on its health-care path for generations to come, our thought leaders ask?
A lot, I would think. Tucking your kids into bed instead of cheering or jeering at the local bar over the incoming election results. Having coffee with a friend who broke up with his girlfriend after she finally moved to the same town as him. Leaving your job, with a two-foot-high stack of papers on your desk and a big client who’s wavering, for a couple weeks to improve the efficiency of Haiti relief efforts. Living a life that’s not dictated by, and lost to, the Hill’s unrelenting and bruising schedule.
Politics is important in its own way, an intoxicating mix of medicine and candy that our punditry and press get drunk on. But Scott Brown’s election, and the forthcoming recalibration of the Democrats’ national strategy, are just another flounder in a sea of headlines that froths and rages day after day, year after year. There are more important things for each of us to dwell on.
I’m a tech journalist who’s making a TV show about a college newspaper.