Not long ago, I was talking to a wise politico — a man who has science, if you will, in his arsenal. I mean, he has reams of data. I tend to have art, or impressions.
He was saying that the debates don’t matter, in affecting public opinion. But the coverage of the debates does. The debate about the debates. The aftermath. The chatter, the buzz. This affects public opinion.
Far more people hear about the debates, of course, than watch the debates. But even those who watch are influenced by the coverage and commentary. In fact, they can be talked out of their own opinion.
Say you enjoyed a dinner. Then you hear from several people — friends, maybe a professional food critic — that the dinner was no good. You start to wonder whether you liked it. Maybe you decide you didn’t.
I have a friend who’s a (famous) music critic. During intermission, he’s often asked, “So, what do you think?” He answers, “I don’t know, I haven’t read the review yet.”
People often ask me what I think (about music). I say, “The most important opinion is yours.” This is a bit B.S.-y, but it’s the right thing to say. Plus, it’s true, at one level. In music, there is such a thing as right and wrong. But there’s plenty of subjectivity, too.
This goes double — triple, quadruple — for politics. Back in the Nixon administration, PJB (Patrick J. Buchanan) coined the phrase “instant analysis,” which was used by Agnew. The Nixon people hated the instant analysis that would shape perceptions of, say, a presidential speech.
This has been a constant of our political life for all these decades.
Remember, the most important opinion about the debates tonight is yours — unless you like anyone other than Ted Cruz (disclosure).
Thanks and see you.