It Was a Dark and Stormy Game Change
TNR’s Isaac Chotiner takes a welcome break from the (largely contextless) advance revelations from Double Down to mock the it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night prose:
As the authors write, “The wind and weather of the campaign shifted in something like a heartbeat. The challenger was surging. The polls were tightening.” Nevertheless, they report, Obama had a good day of prep for the second debate. And then:
In Sunday night’s run-through, the president seemed to be relapsing: The disengaged and pedantic Obama of Denver was back. In the staff room, his two closest advisers, David Axelrod and David Plouffe, watched on video monitors with a mounting sense of unease—when, all of a sudden, a practice round that had started out looking merely desultory turned into the Mock From Hell.
There is not just the debate “from Hell.” There is the “metastazing panic” of supporters, the “absurdity and horror of the circumstances,” the “mortified” advisors, the “creepy” performance at one rehearsal. Some of these descriptions come from Obama’s people but it’s also clear that Heilemann and Halperin believe that the overheated language and sheer panic were justified.
Don’t give me none of this “but it’s just a political page-turner” nonsense. Form and content are related. As Chotiner perfectly points out, the hyperbolic language is one and the same with the hyperbolic analysis.
Nor is this inconsequential. The obsession with “moments,” “narratives,” “pivots,” etc. that floats a good deal of election coverage is inflated by just such hot air. Those who skipped the slavish, personality-based approach to the 2012 race and paid attention to electoral fundamentals—this blog absolutely counts itself among them—produced consistently more accurate analysis. We didn’t chew the scenery, but neither did we have to be talked down from a ledge after the Denver debate. Elections have consequences; so does prose.