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Sexism Not a Primary Cause of Focus on McCain

Posted on July 28th, 2017 in Journalism, Politics, Public Discourse, Publishing, Social Media with 0 Comments

The internet backlash is well under way this morning against a perception that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is getting too much credit for halting the GOP effort to kill the Affordable Care Act –­ that Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are more deserving.

I get the point that sexism can influence the spin of the story, and news judgment is subjective, but this cranky old editor sees plenty of other reasons why McCain got this morning’s headlines.

Mad respect to Collins (big fan!) and Murkowski, but here are some factors more prominent than sexism in McCain being the lead:

  1. There is a reason “new” makes up three-quarters of the word “news.” Collins and Murkowski already were on record against the bill; in terms of timing, at least, McCain’s was the vote that decided the matter.
  2. Just this week, McCain delivered a widely reported speech on the GOP’s Obamacare-repeal effort and the decline of political discourse.
  3. That McCain was the deciding vote on an important health-care bill right after being diagnosed with brain cancer puts a non-legislative “story” – a human element – in the story.
  4. McCain has been a national figure for decades, going back to the Vietnam War. Most Americans – admittedly, through ignorance – never heard of Maine’s Collins and Alaska’s Murkowski until this month. (Confession: Even I had to double check Murkowski’s first name.)
    And, here in Arizona:
  5. “All politics is local.”
  6. McCain’s vote gives cover to Sen. Jeff Flake, who is up for re-election next year, in the Republican primary – though Flake’s “yes” vote could hurt him in the general election, if feckless Arizona Democrats field a serious candidate.

Most of this morning’s backlash, I think, comes from critics projecting their own biases on the story – or simply trying to hijack it to make their own points. Let’s leave that to the president.

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Stu Robinson does writing, editing, media relations and social media through his business, Phoenix-based Lightbulb Communications.

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