Friday, April 29, 2016

'Pathway' campaign metaphor blinds us

The media’s coverage of the 2016  presidential nominating campaigns is wedded to the “pathway” metaphor. Like all metaphors, this one locks us into unchallenged and misleading assumptions.

Pathways are “narrow,” “wide,” “closed” or “clear of obstacles.” They promise inevitability.

Oh really?

Has Bernie Sander’s “pathway” now disappeared? End of story?

Are the anti-Trump candidates on the Republican side also left with no path to nomination? Or a very, very “narrow” path?

Beware the metaphorical story line; reality has its own narrative.

For instance, there’s just enough vitriol and talk of violence in this campaign, that some insane act could alter events. In these United States, it has been known to happen. Think Bobby Kennedy. For that matter, think JFK.

Then, as a friend pointed out, the whole course of the campaigns could be upended by an act of terrorism here. What would a 9-ll, or worse, heaven forbid, do to the campaigns and voter sentiment?

Nor is mayhem all that could change the story line.

Consider that the Democratic Convention will be held in late July, three months from now. What might happen if the intervening polls show Trump actually beating Clinton in November? Suppose that with each new poll the gap between the two widens?

Frankly, it’s not hard to imagine. Clinton has all the charisma of an Oregon slug. Her surrogates are nearly as offensive as Trump. In an anti-establishment year, her ties to the political elites (financial and otherwise) become more and more suspect. What DID she tell those folks at Goldman-Sachs?

Meanwhile Trump, for all his ignorance and bigotry, seems impervious to criticism largely because he is the darling of frustrated, irrational and angry hordes who are weary of political elites of all stripes.

And then there is Trump’s media-savvy theatrics. Who draws the bigger audience and the largest media profits? Clinton or Trump? No contest. Schedule him!

Meanwhile disaffected, despairing Sanders’ supporters might support Trump (a "new Trump"). Any appeals for their votes by a distrusted Clinton could be seen as insincere pandering.

Trump is at least sincere, foremost about himself.

And so Democratic Party super-delegates may witness a widening polling spread between a tanking “weak” Clinton and ascendant “strong” Trump. Couple that with polls continuing to show Sanders clobbering Trump in November.
That scenario could well inspire some serious rethinking at the Philadelphia Democratic convention.

How do any of these narratives fit with the “pathway” metaphor? They don’t.

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