I don’t know if Dylan Byers is reading The Conversation these days but his post this morning about media treatment of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) vs. Wendy Davis is dead on:
When a Democrat like Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis filibusters against abortion restrictions, she is elevated to hero status, her tennis shoes become totems. When Cruz grandstands against Obamacare, he is a laughingstock in the eyes of many journalists on Twitter, an “embarrassment” in the eyes of The New York Times editorial board.
Yes, the difference between filibustering and grandstanding plays a
part. Equally important is the fact that Cruz’s theatrics are frustrating
members of his own party. But, part of the disparity in coverage is due
to the fact that the mainstream media, generally speaking, don’t admire
Cruz the way they admired Davis — or rather, they admire him only
insofar as he makes for tragicomic theater, whereas they admired her on
The point is that the coverage of Cruz has been critical, and in some
cases unforgiving, from the outset. At least initially, Davis wasn’t
viewed through a critical lens at all. Her willingness to stand for 11
hours was evidence of the American dream in action. Period.
I said yesterday on Twitter that the real obstacle Cruz faced wasn’t Sen. Reid or Sen. McConnell it was the media. The major media will not allow a moral victory against Obamacare. And given the make-up of the Senate that is the only victory Cruz was ever likely to get.
There are a lot of conservatives who are justifiably excited about what Cruz did yesterday and today. But the truth is, people who tune into CSPAN for hours are a tiny fraction of the electorate. Most people will catch a tiny digest of the speech on television or the web. That’s all most people have time to do. They won’t absorb the substance of the remarks in either direction. They’ll catch the tone.
The power that the media has to choose heroes and villains is its greatest power. As much as I respect and am grateful for the new media it still can not compete with big media when it comes to establishing frameworks for stories like this. Having the power to present Wendy Davis as a hero and Ted Cruz as a goat is tremendously significant to them and to the issues they stand for (or against).
This is a much broader issue than just Cruz or Davis, but it’s nice to see Dylan Byers acknowledge it in this instance.