Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 196- Winning, losing and telling the tale

Dear Mr. President,

I'm not sure what winning is supposed to look like, any more. On day of several ostensible political victories, I've read pieces by Politico and The New York Times that read more like obituaries for your administration. I think that both pieces are poorly written and tend to rely on oversimplification to make their points. Each seem to simultaneously criticize you for overreaching and for doing too little. Little, if any, concession is made toward the overwhelming financial and political obstacles your administration faced due to the previous administration. Is it hopelessly naive of me to think that opinion polling in July isn't necessarily a perfect indicator of what November will hold?

One aspect of the criticisms offered that I do agree with is the folly of your administration's alienation of the media. I think the press can be hostile, self-serving and incredibly cynical. But you can't win the favor of the public without the media. If there has been one consistant victory for the right over the last few years, it has been control of the narrative. We may be winning our fair share of political battles, but we are not the ones writing the history of it. I think that repairing the administration's relationship with the media, and re-engaging directly with the press, could be important steps toward reversing the trend of analysis that casts victories as either meaningless compromises of values or as imposition of the administration's will on a reluctant public, (or, inexplicably, both.)

The left has plenty to be upset about in the compromises that your administration has agreed to, and the issues you've sacrificed without a proper fight. But the progress made in a time of economic distress has been commendable. I don't believe that enough of that story is getting through, or that the right-wing narrative of your secret plan to dominate the globe through back-door socialist revolution is being effectively combated. And while the tone of news coverage certainly matters less to me than the substance of what your administration is doing, I think that re-engaging the press corps (and increasing engagement with the kinds of new media that got you elected in the first place, like bloggers,) would go a long way toward improving the way voters feel about your accomplishments. I'm not an expert or anything, but I don't think that limiting press conferences and basically ignoring new media opportunities to reach an audience that doesn't get its information on CNN or FOX is a communication strategy that will allow you to reach many of those Americans who aren't personally attending your town hall meetings on economic recovery. I still have a great deal of hope for your presidency, and I'm proud of what has been achieved today, but if I were learning about it only from the news coverage, I might wonder why we're all wearing black and talking in the past tense.

Respectfully yours,


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