Peter Berkowitz reviews The Way to Win, by Mark Halperin and John F. Harris. According to Berkowitz, they contend that in large part the New Media (talk radio, the internet, and cable television) have transformed civilized campaigning into "the Freak Show," "a new carnival-style environment of shouting, mockery, character assassination, and extreme partisanship" (Berkowitzs summary).
Berkowitz doesnt agree, reminding us that partisanship (even the extreme variety) has a lusty heritage in America and that the role of the new media has often been to advance debates, consider issues, and examine questions that the old media wasnt willing to touch. He further argues that on their own terms Halperin and Harris dont succeed in demonstrating that the fundamentals of politics and campaigning have changed. Were left with the impression that their disquiet has more to do with the pre-2006 results and with the old medias loss of an information monopoly than with anything else.
While all of this might seem to suggest that Berkowitz wishes he hadnt read the book, but he does credit the authors with being good reporters when theyre not riding their hobby horse.
And reflecting on the 2006 results Berkowitz himself makes an observation worth chewing over:
In the aftermath of election 2006,...it’s worth underscoring that the system is working: The public remains closely but not deeply divided; a significant segment of the electorate is capable of voting for a Democrat or a Republican depending on the qualities of the candidate and the priorities of the moment; and any presidential candidate who neglects the center will put his or her election 2008 prospects very much at risk.
What say you, gentle readers?
Hat tip: Power Line.