"Once abolish God and the government becomes the God." -G.K. Chesterton

Friday, November 5, 2010

Campbell vs. Doggett Wrap-Up: Inept Media Coverage, Tone-Deaf Victory Speeches, and 2012

How bad was the Election Night coverage in Central Texas for the congressional race between Lloyd Doggett and Dr. Donna Campbell? It was difficult to even find the results scrolling across the TV screens of many Austin affiliates. They would go through every statewide race, the Texas congressional districts, some of the national races, and then move into bond proposals before going back to the Governor's race. Halfway through the evening, the Austin-American Statesman tweeted that Doggett had moved ahead 66 to 32%. Only problem was this data only included Travis County. A few minutes later, the local Fox 7 affiliate reported the same erroneous numbers. They even put a graphic on the screen. So much for competent and unbiased journalism.

Lloyd Doggett eventually prevailed 53% to 45%, but couldn't announce the victory until almost 11 pm. Consider this a nail-biter given his history in the district, where he usually wins by a 30 plus point margin.

But if Election Night coverage of a tight race (predicted here from the beginning) was underwhelming, the media coverage leading up to the election was just as nonexistent. In doing a search of the Austin-American Statesman and Donna Campbell, one is lucky to come up with three or four articles. That's over the entire campaign, absolutely pathetic coverage for a pivotal race by a major city newspaper.

One of the articles actually wasted time fact-checking a single line from a thirty minute speech where Donna Campbell called Mr. Doggett, "the most liberal congressman in Washington." I believe that's called puffery, hardly intentional deception and hardly worth a fact-check, but leave it to the Statesman to waste our time. No word yet on whether the Statesman will also be fact-checking whether Mr. Gatti's has "the best pizza in town." Later, when Doggett sent out a mailer claiming Dr. Campbell wanted to raise taxes 23%, a flier that surely did some damage to her candidacy, the Statesman was silent. Sadly, this is what passes for election coverage in a midterm. No wonder over 50% of the voters choose to stay home.

Some of the small town papers were even worse. Whoever runs the Hays Free Press falsely reported Lloyd Doggett voted against the stimulus bill. Getting easy-to-verify facts correct should be the essential duty of any news provider, but the Free Press folks clearly prioritize ideology over being a trusted news source. Hopefully, area residents don't rely on that paper for too much information. They regularly dedicated pages to shamefully promote Mr. Doggett's local appearances, but failed to give Donna Campbell so much as a sentence of coverage.

Surprisingly enough, some of the more reliable reporting in this race came from the Austin Chronicle. Even I'm shocked by this revelation, considering the leftist perspective of the alternative weekly (I don't see how you actually label yourself alternative when you parrot the same old talking points of the majority of Travis County libs - wouldn't a true alternative present viewpoints that weren't in the Austin mainstream?) Still, Lee Nichols should be commended for being a better reporter than his brethren at the Austin-American Statesman or any of the local news channels.

Speaking of which, while I got one or two details wrong digging inside the numbers of District 25, Lee should admit that my analysis of the competitiveness of the race was dead-on. I never promised a win for Dr. Campbell, but I was one of the few who realized she could pull off an upset with a strong rural and suburban showing. Another 10% turnout in Hays, Bastrop, and Caldwell Counties, a one to two percent shift in the Travis County results, and this race could have gone the other way. And now I'm nitpicking, Lee, but you shouldn't have let Lloyd Doggett get away with the whole "I voted against the bailouts" thing. Doggett voted against one bailout - as in singular, not plural - the TARP. That was over two years ago. Then he voted for the financial reform bill which actually makes "too big to fail" the permanent policy of our federal government with no further TARP votes ever required.

As it turns out, we got a very exciting race in Central Texas. Now for redistricting! Lloyd Doggett should probably just be handed downtown and east Austin. His legislative record is dismal given the 16 (and now 18) years he's served in Washington. Very few legislative accomplishments, too much debt and expansion of government, a complete dismissal of the trouble social security and Medicare are in... yet still Austin treats this public servant millionaire like their favorite son. Must be those earmarks he keeps sending back for hiking trails.

As for Dr. Campbell, my sources say she is seriously considering a 2012 run - and perhaps in a newly created Central Texas district where she doesn't have to go up against the media-coddled Doggett. Although who could complain if they faced off again? I just wish the political pundits in Austin would hold him to the same standard they hold Rick Perry to and call the longtime Democrat out for ducking tough questions and not debating his opponent. That's the kind of vibrant exercise in democracy all Austinites deserve, whether you are a progressive or conservative.

The kicker in all of this was Mr. Doggett's victory speech. If he learned anything from his contested race, he didn't show it. King Lloyd ripped into the tea party, once again demonizing and ostracizing a large core of his constituents, saying "we added a spoonful of sugar to their bitter brew." Later he droned on about the tea party "not having much interest in the truth." This from a guy who was too scared to run on his legislative record. If he was humbled, he didn't show it, stating his "main opponent was overconfidence."

One day even Democrats will realize they need to hold their most entrenched career politicians accountable. Until then, expect Lloyd Doggett to add to his millions of personal fortune while spending the taxpayers into oblivion. Here's hoping he's marginalized as much by the new GOP majority as he has marginalized the people of Central Texas.