Matthew Yglesias: The Difference-Makers: [The McCain campaign] struck me as less vile and dishonorable than the other presidential campaigns (2004, 2000, 1996) that I remember. At any rate, Brad DeLong says:
Yes, John McCain ran a dirty campaign. But it was a less dirty campaign than any Republican has run since... well, since the memory of man runneth (with the possible exception of Ford 1976). The difference this year was that–for some reason–this year a fraction of the mainstream press called them on it rather than ignoring it entirely.
I think the “for some reason” here is pretty clear: It’s the infrastructure, stupid. Organizations like Think Progress, TPM Media, The Huffington Post, Media Matters, and Progressive Accountability have ensured that there are dozens of people working, every day, to shoot down bogus storylines and to highlight especially egregious behavior. And those institutions are connected to a vast web of individual or small-group blogs that together form a sea in which long-existing progressive publications like The American Prospect, Mother Jones, The Nation, and The Washington Monthly all swim, all reaching much broader audiences than they could in their strictly print days. New, more progressive columnists with ties to those institutions like Harold Meyerson and Paul Krugman have joined The Washington Post and New York Times op-ed pages. Television programs open to progressive ideas hosted by Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow have appeared on cable.
To make a long story short, the Obama-McCain matchup is taking place in a very different media context from the Kerry-Bush matchup in 2004. And Kerry-Bush happened in a very different context than Gore-Bush in 2000. And I think it’s no coincidence that as progressive infrastructure gets bigger and stronger, it gets harder and harder for conservative media strategies to work. The press’s all-out war against Gore galvanized people and have created institutions designed to fight back against that kind of garbage.
There is some evidence for this: for example, John Harris's May 2001 explanation of why he and his friends were so tough on Clinton and such a pushover for Bush:
John Harris, May 6, 2001: Bush Catches a Washington Break: Are the national news media soft on Bush? The instinctive response of any reporter is to deny it. But my rebuttals lately have been wobbly.... The difference is not in journalists' attitudes toward Bush or their willingness to report aggressively on him. It is that nearly all the political and institutional forces that constitute Washington writ large have aligned to make Bush's life more pleasant than Clinton's ever was.... There is no well-coordinated corps of aggrieved and methodical people who start each day looking for ways to expose and undermine a new president.
There was just such a gang ready for Clinton in 1993. Conservative interest groups, commentators and congressional investigators waged a remorseless campaign that they hoped would make life miserable for Clinton and vault themselves to power. They succeeded.... It is not that reporters have been charmed by Bush. It is not that Democrats are nicer, more decent people than Republicans. The difference is that the GOP conservatives' zeal to undermine Clinton -- and the techniques they used to do it -- flowed from special historical circumstances....
Reporters and editors... give more coverage to stories when someone is shouting....
In Clinton's first term, Rep. Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) turned to Democrats and said, "Your president is just not that important to us." This underscores the irony that Bush, whose ascension was clouded by questions over whether he really won, has been accorded more legitimacy by the opposition than Clinton was -- or than Gore would have had he become president while losing the popular vote...
Let's see how much of a honeymoon John Harris gives Barack Obama.