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Oprah, Gore and the Culturally Challenged Conservative Press Corps


Some of America's conservative political reporters are really out of touch with reality. The reaction to Vice-President Gore's appearance on Oprah by the conservative media really has been quite ridiculous and again, reveals their continued ignorance of the role that culture plays in politics and in life in general. I particularly noticed this deficiency right after the Democratic convention when conservative writer after conservative analyst continued to express their view that Gore's speech at the convention was ineffective and should be dismissed because it represented the return of Big Promises and Big Government and was more of a laundry list of liberal issues than it was a traditional acceptance speech. How silly.

As if all people care about in selecting a leader is his ability to know the difference between a "proper" convention speech and a state of the union address.

The reason why Gore shot up in the polls after the speech was due to the convincing manner in which he delivered the speech. He read it as if he believed every single word of it. He conveyed "integrity", in the sense that the manner in which he delivered the speech demonstrated the unity of his ideas, policies, convictions and his desire to be president. Like him or not, Gore clearly gives the impression that he believes in what he is saying; an impression that one does not similarly obtain from George W. Bush. The Texas Governor does, at times, look as if he just nailed down his political positions the other day. This is obvious to most people that I talk to - including a majority of Republicans.

What conservative political reporters discount is that the American electorate wants to feel as if a person believes in what they are saying - whether their ideas are right or wrong, liberal or conservative, Republican and Democrat.

People got this impression from Jimmy Carter and they got that impression from Ronald Reagan. They also get it from Sen. John McCain and from Governor Jesse Ventura. They also "feel" it when they hear Pat Buchanan or Sen. Edward Kennedy speak.

Somewhat outside of the political realm, people like Minister Louis Farrakhan and Dr. Laura Schlessinger convey this quality.

This form of "integrity" is so important to voters, whether they agree with you or not, because it demonstrates that you have convictions and that you will be consistent. And it is consistency that conveys security to voters. If you are a consistent leader, people know what to expect from you on a daily basis and this is a comforting quality for followers and voters.

At present, people feel more "secure" with Al Gore than they do with George W. Bush. This was not case when Al Gore was changing his outfits everyday and moving his campaign headquarters around and hiring and firing strategists and advisers.

George W. Bush knew this and hammered that point home at the Republican convention -- a convention where he conveyed a great deal of "integrity" and consistency, himself. The Republican convention helped to make people feel "secure" about George W. Bush in the White House, largely because of his convention speech where it did look like he believed in what he was saying.

But in one speech, at the Democratic convention, Gore overcame Bush's accomplishment in Philadelphia and showed conviction, integrity and consistency and in the process, won over a lot of people. He showed that he loves his wife and believes in his ideas - no matter how bad some of them may be and these two things mean the world to legions of voters - many of who are not partisan.

According to conservative analysts and journalists, Oprah Winfrey, yesterday, was supposed to turn into Tim Russert or Brit Hume. She was supposed to turn her relaxed, "I'm every woman" and at times spiritual format into Meet The Press or Fox News Sunday. And because she did not do that, she is somehow in Gore's back pocket. Wouldn't it be a shock to some of these reporters if, by chance, Oprah was in fact a Republican? Hmmm...

Oprah's audience is not the Meet The Press, Fox News Sunday, Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer, Face The Nation, This Week, Hardball, Beltway Boys, Evans and Novak, Hunt and Shields crowd. And for conservative reporters to be upset because it isn't shows just how out of touch some of them are with the real world.

An enormous amount of female voters and others tuned into campaign 2000 for the first time this year and for that alone Oprah deserves a great deal of credit. Instead of focusing on the reality that the Inside-The Beltway crowd in Washington D.C. is repulsive to most Americans, these professional politicos focus on the supposed "weakness" of Oprah's questioning.

In one day, Oprah brought more attention to the presidential campaign than all of the political television shows, newspapers and magazines combined.

How can conservative pundits and writers be upset about that - if they really care about American politics?


Cedric Muhammad

Tuesday, September 12, 2000

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