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Three Left Standing

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With the resignation of Edwards from the Democratic presidential race, we still have three candidates left standing Clinton, Gravel, and Obama. Oh, you didn't know that there was still a third candidate? Most of the country never knew that there were still five candidates after Biden and Richardson stepped out in Iowa.

My purpose in writing today is not to endorse any of the remaining candidates, but to express my dismay at the watering down of our democracy by the media.

From the beginning, the media had decided that the "horse race" would come down to Hillary Clinton as the Democratic presidential nominee. They have had to broaden that picture a bit to include Obama, but they made that segue without ever looking back.

Being a news junkie and watching cable news, I saw most of the so-called debates. I saw who was there and the type of air time they received. I saw who made the network and cable news, and the talking head shows. It has been the Clinton-Obama show for a very long time. For much of the country, there have only been two candidates for a year.

Herein lies the lie, and the demise of representation in the "selection" process. The corporate media did not "lie" outright. They created a fable of "viable" candidates in which they both defined and created "viability." Those outside their picks were left with only face-to-face campaigning, the people's media, and internet campaigning. For those reading this, you likely saw all of this. But what about the 85-90% who saw only the corporate media, and the 75-80% who saw only the network channels?

After the Iowa primary, the Gravel campaign took massive blow of it being announced that he had withdrawn from the race when he had not. For as little coverage as he had received, the lie would allow overlooking him entirely. Even the "progressive" cable token Keith Olbermann announced that Gravel was out (though he has since apologized). Kucinich presented another inconvenience and so the corporate media decided to just exclude him from the "debates" entirely.

Edwards decided to drop out after South Carolina. Now word of explanation has come out that I have seen. He was an invisible presence at the last Democratic "debate" as Clinton and Obama attempted to woo his supporters into their respective camps. While there has been no explanation, I suspect that part of the reason that Edwards withdrew was that he was not getting enough air time of be "viable."

There are those who would argue that the "field" needed to narrow down. Or that we should not waste time or concentration on candidates who do not have a possibility to win. However, for me, there is a totally different level of importance in having a broad and relatively equal field. Namely that a diversity of issues and interests are brought to the discussion. The presidential campaigns are one of the few times when there is a forum and a focus on a discussion of national issues. For many, it is the only time when perspectives other than corporate media framing are presented for people to consider. Shutting out and shutting down those voices dramatically shapes the publics' perception of both issues and solutions.

Clearly money has been a big deal in these campaigns - it always is. However, who gets heard and who does not is not simply an issue of money attracted to a candidate. Publicly financed campaigns are critical, but will be undermined dramatically if the corporate media is not required to provide equal air time to all candidates, and for networks and parties to include all candidates in the forum of debate.

For both the Nevada debate and the South Carolina debate, Kucinich was excluded by the corporate media from participating (even though he had initially been invited). The ruling was essentially that the cable networks are private clubs and they can invite whoever they want to the party. That will be a decision with massive impacts over time - and not simply for political campaigns.

So now there are three Democratic presidential candidates, though the voice has largely narrowed to one and a half as both Clinton and Obama vie for some hypothetical middle of the road.
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Rowan Wolf is an activist and sociologist living in Oregon. She is the founder and principle author of Uncommon Thought Journal, and Editor in Chief of Cyrano's Journal Today.


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