First of all, one of the media’s go-to Neutral Story Lines is that incumbents have too much of advantage in elections and there’s not enough turn-over and fresh blood (read: drama which makes the news more fun to write) each election. Mickey Kaus often notes the media likes Neutral Story Lines, as they’re easy to write, but are supposedly nonpartisan, as they usually criticize some procedural defect in both parties.
What makes the “Neutral Story Line” not neutral at all is that the media seems most interested, each cycle, in the “Neutral Story Li9ne” that hurts the Republicans more. For instance, the amount of money flowing into elections became a more and more intense problem as more and more money flowed to Republicans, putting Democrats at a disadvantage. The supposedly Neutral Story Line doesn’t really seem all that Neutral when you consider that there’s-too-much-money-in-politics reached its crisis stage during Bush’s 2004 election, when he spent more money than anyone in history, but suddenly wasn’t a problem at all when Obama topped him in 2008. This despite the fact that Bush actually had a higher percentage of small-money donors than Obama (as a percentage of total money donated), and Obama had a bigger percentage of high-dollar donors.
The media loves these story lines, because facially they appear neutral — “money in politics is a danger” has no on-its-face, explicit partisan import — but the timing of when to deploy a particular story line is highly partisan, and always made with the Democratic Party’s best interests in mind.
Thus, when Bush refused the campaign spending limits, and spent only private money, it was nearly a constitutional crisis; when Obama did the same, it was a triumph of people-powered politics.
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