Coming out of Iowa, Clinton, Edwards, and Obama, seemed to start looking at what was "working" in each other's rhetoric and issue focus. By New Hampshire that rhetoric was starting to merge. By Nevada, virtually all substantial difference had disappeared. However, the convergence was simply due to campaign "learning curves" of what attracts voters. There was big doings behind the scenes.
The so-called "extremists" among the candidates (Gravel and Kucinich) were minimized to the point of invisibility. Then Biden, and Dodd dropped out. Soon to be followed by Richardson. Gravel received a fatal blow with the reporting that he had dropped out of the race as well. Which he had not and has not done. The news to Gravel's continued campaign has been so silenced, that the lie is not even mentioned at this point. Big media was well on its way to making a two-person race. Enter MSNBC and the Democratic Presidential "Debate."
Five candidates were initially invited by NBC to participate in the debate. The criteria? Those candidates who were still active and on the Nevada caucus ballot. The debate on Tuesday January 15th would have shown Clinton, Gravel, Edwards, Kucinich, and Obama. Instead, two active candidates were excluded from participating - Gravel and Kucinich. MSNBC decided to change their criteria for participation from all active candidates to all "viable" candidates - viability as determined by MSNBC.
Kucinich, immediately filed suit against MSNBC for changing the rules and uninviting him. Gravel did not have the campaign resources to go to court (and is miffed at Kucinich for not including him in the court action). A lower court ruled that MSNBC would have to allow Kucinich or cancel the debate. MSNBC appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court. In order to win that appeal, MSNBC had to change their own plans.
Originally, the debate was to be televised on both network and cable channels. In other words, NBC as well as MSNBC would have carried the debate. However, the networks are public access while cable is paid access. In order to win the appeal, the NBC network access had to be canceled. This then excluded not just Kucinich and Gravel, but the non-cable connected. That is largely those with few economic resources and those in rural areas. By eliminating a significant portion of "the public," it also dramatically narrowed whose issues candidates needed to address.
So, the debate starts at a round table with three coiffed candidates smiling at each other and the crowd. It was more like watching a convivial tea party than candidates who were competing to be the Democratic candidate. While part of this "agreement" was due to stealing message and tone from each other's campaigns, it was made a reality by removing the presence of "disruptive" factors - those with a different vision, platform, and plan - Gravel and Kucinich. MSNBC's own report characterized the show as "Democrats play nice."
To the shame of MSNBC and the three candidates present, not one word was mentioned of the exclusion of the candidates. This was made even more obvious by the fact that the Nevada Supreme Court ruling was not made until 45 minutes before the debate was to start. While certainly newsworthy, it also demanded the candidates to acknowledge it even if they had not chosen to boycott the debate because of the exclusion. But no, they actively participated in creating the illusion that they -and only they- were still running for the Democratic nomination.
Once the little tea party was concluded, the anchors of interpretation made their debut - Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews. They too had decided to go along with the phantasm that had been created. One would think that the Nevada Supreme Court ruling would have been both pertinent and newsworthy. However, both "pundits" launched into the dissection of debate without one word regarding the last minute exclusion of Kucinich and Gravel.
All of these actions (and inaction) on the part of both the "top three" Democratic candidates and the corporate media, was the creation of a lie and an undermining of democracy. One might say the fix is in. That all involved were willing to collude to deceive and silence for their own interests, and the public and democratic process be damned.
The events that have transpired so far are a textbook example of how public opinion is shaped, and change undermined. I am both disgusted and disheartened. The fact that all of this has taken place in a virtual media vacuum hides from public knowledge not just what is going on, but that they are being led down the garden path. One might say "business as usual," but there is a lot at stake here. As the "main" candidates essentially become political clones and the power elite interests are served, the people are left to select which "face" they want in the White House. Meanwhile we get a front row seat for the ongoing destruction of a nation.
Also of Interest
Mike Gravel. Why NBC and the DNC Want Me Out of the Debates. Huffington Post.
Gravel invitation to the Nevada debate
How the Nevada Caucuses work
Democratic Party (United States) presidential primaries, 2008.
American Research Group Primaries polling results
NBC un-plugs Kucinich from Presidential debate. Kucinich Campaign.
MSNBC vs. Dennis Kucinich. Amy Goodman. Includes information about MSNBC/GE/Raytheon.