- Nov 22, 2003
By JOHN PODHORETZ
October 24, 2006 -- FOR those who follow political news, there are now two kinds of time: Mainstream Media Time and Blog Time.
If your clock's set to Mainstream Media Time, you believe for a certainty that the Democrats are poised to win 20 to 40 seats in the House of Representatives, thereby taking control of that body for the first time in 12 years. You also think Democrats are on the cusp of winning six Senate seats to take control of that chamber as well.
Those of you on Mainstream Media Time believe the American people are fed up with Republicans, that GOP voters are depressed and won't turn out and Democrats are loaded for bear and will go to the polls even if five feet of snow fall on Election Day.
Your evidence is largely made up of poll data indicating wild discontent with Congress, with Democrats posing severe challenges to scores of Republican incumbents while Republicans are hardly nipping at any Democratic incumbents' heels.
If your clock is set to Blog Time, you believed all that at the start of last week. By last Thursday, however, those of you on Blog Time began to discern a change: Suddenly, things weren't quite so bad for Republicans or quite so great for Democrats.
Blog Timers adduced this not from major evidence, like big polls, but from small data points - trees rather than forests.
Blog Timers noted a Maryland poll indicating a tie in the Senate race there, a seat Democrats are counting on. In Tennessee, they saw Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford deciding to confront his GOP rival, Bob Corker, at a Corker event - and for the first time in a long and confident campaign, looking desperate and worried.
After two weeks in which the news of Republican Rep. Mark Foley's disgusting instant-message shenanigans appeared to be threatening Republican House members all over the place, Blog Timers noted that polls seemed to flip back toward the GOP in some cases - e.g., Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York, a senior official of his party now in the race of his life upstate.
This split between Blog Timers and Mainstream Media Timers is not a partisan divide. There are Democrats and liberals, Republicans and conservatives, in both time frames.
At some point last week, Republicans and conservatives on Blog Time began to cheer up, and Democrats and liberals on Blog Time began to worry. The head man at the hard-Left dailykos.com expressed his fear that Democrats had peaked too early, while the folks at the conservative redstate.com seemed sure that their team was saving itself from certain disaster.
And it was only over this past weekend that Mainstream Media Timers simply assumed the results on Election Day two weeks from now are fore-ordained, with Republicans doomed to have their hats handed to them. Mainstream Media Timers have been leaning in that direction, certainly, but the overwhelming confidence on the Left and the desperate depression of those on the Right both solidified
I have no idea which camp is closer to the truth. None whatsoever. But this coming election represents an interesting test.
By definition, Blog Time is fast. Very fast. The advantage blogs have over the mainstream media is speed - commentary coming at a furious pace. And a blog addict's sense of political time speeds up as well.
For example, most people who follow the news probably don't know much about Harold Ford's blunder last week. But blog readers have already inhaled thousands of words and multiple interpretations of it.
To them, the Ford news is already old. They probably assume Tennesseans have already seen footage of it, drawn conclusions from it and changed their voting strategies because of it. But have they? Are the Tennessee voters paying attention? Or do they exist on a slower and more deliberate pace - the pace of Mainstream Media Time?
If the bloggers get it right this time, this really will be yet another crisis point for Mainstream Media Time - a point at which their most loyal consumers will be compelled to wonder why they're bothering to pay attention to writers and editors whose sense of America is so completely out of whack. Especially if there is another force out there that ate the mainstream media's lunch.
If, however, the bloggers are getting it wrong, this will be the first major blow in their wildly successful rush this decade to dominate the way political news is made, reported and consumed.