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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 6/28/19

The Second Democratic Debate: Unfair, Unbalanced, Media Malpractice

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Message Diane Perlman

Democrats Square Off In Contentious Second Round Of Debate | Velshi & Ruhle | MSNBC The 2020 Democratic field may be taking a new shape after 10 more candidates took the debate stage last night. Stephanie Ruhle breaks down the highlights of ...
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I thought the first Democratic debate on June 27, 2019, was dignified, admirable and even uplifting. Although I did not like the format or moderation, it was balanced. I appreciated the opportunity to discover and be surprised by unknown candidates. The tone was exemplary, mature, respectful, and good modeling for party and country.

I hated the second debate. I was shocked at extreme unfairness, imbalance and media malpractice, preventing lesser-known candidates from revealing themselves. Moderators made no attempt at balance and directed questions to the same familiar few, while actively excluding others. They suppressed Marianne Williamson, Andrew Yang and John Hickenlooper, all on the left flank, mostly off camera.

The gross imbalance was irresponsible and a disservice to the public. It was almost half hour before Marianne spoke. They did not let her answer most questions that I know she has good answers for, cut her off and shifted the camera back to center. She barely got out her comment about US policies that devastate economies of countries south of our border, and the relationship to immigration, while allowing other candidates to pick up on her point as if it was their idea, as is commonly done to women. They did not let Andrew Yang speak even 3 minutes. Marianne and Andrew are seen as simplistic caricatures who should leave the race, not allowing their gifts that we desperately need. I know Marianne's depth and range, which was blocked.

Moderators were in the mode of "gotcha" journalism. I lost respect for MSNBC and was deeply disappointed by Rachel Maddow, who I thought would save us from the bias in the first hour. She too kept going back to the same candidates, often calling on "Senators" the ones we least need to hear from. She made no attempt at balance. I expected more from her.

Savannah Guthrie fed the Dems to the wolves when she said, "Raise your hand if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants," giving Trump ammunition and a photo Fox is already using to win his election. She gave the Republicans red meat we will not hear the end of. Harm was done. With friends like these, who needs enemies? There was not one question about Iran, or nukes, stated several times as our greatest threat in the first debate, or other critical issues.

What were they thinking? Whose side are they on? Was it unconscious or intentional to sacrifice some candidates?

Those of us in the field of framing, messaging, language, communication, and strategy such as George Lakoff and many others, observe that Democrats suck at messaging. They are psychologically ignorant and not strategic, or even conscious about communication. They rely on facts and reason, ignoring emotions like fear and identity, dignity envy and humiliation, used so effectively by Republicans.

Republicans pay experts for help with psychological manipulation while Democrats and liberals won't take it for free. Dems don't know what they don't know, and dismiss it when we try to tell them. Republicans hire people like Frank Luntz, Republican wordsmith, to calculate "words that work" like "death tax," "tax relief," and "climate change" which sounds more benign than "global warming." Lakoff has warned us that by using their language we reinforce their message and work against ourselves.

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Visiting Scholar Institute of Conflict Analysis and Resolution George Mason University

Diane Perlman is a clinical and political psychologist, devoted to applying knowledge from psychology, conflict studies and social sciences to designing strategies and policies to reverse nuclear proliferation, to drastically reduce (more...)

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