There are a few things we know about the current status of Meet the Press. As Chez Pazienza pointed out, the way NBC News forced David Gregory out of his job was horrendously bad form. Like or dislike Gregory's style, there's no justifying the way he was tossed out. Nevertheless, NBC's choice for a replacement was essentially a lateral move -- swapping Gregory for MSNBC's Chuck Todd, who's basically the same person, torn from the same establishment circuit. There's really nothing Chuck Todd brings to the show that David Gregory didn't already provide. Except for one thing.
Those of us old enough to remember Election 2008 recall Chuck Todd's admittedly insightful sidebar reports on electoral math and poll results. It was still craptastical horserace pandering, but it was at least wonky enough to set it apart from the ceaselessly ludicrous "Who won the week?" and "Why can't Obama close the deal?" segments. I mean, it was math rather than subjective observations based on green-room chit-chat, so it delivered actual news.
When he was announced as David Gregory's replacement, many of us thought there was a chance Todd might bring this kind of objective-type wonkery to Meet the Press. Maybe the show would be a little more than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) grandstanding every week or insufferable panel discussions that merely serve to reinforce rather than debunk the misinformation campaigns ricocheting around the echosphere.
Not a chance in hell.
On Sunday's show this week, Todd introduced something called "The Nerd Screen."
Please join me now in a group "oh... fuck... me." Yes, our political discourse now involves something called "The Nerd Screen" -- and the legacy of Lawrence E. Spivak, Garrick Utley and Tim Russert is officially dead. This was clearly a sickening effort to inject an edgy hashtaggable thing into the show -- an obvious attempt to appeal to the online, social media, viral youth demographic. By the way, if you're watching Meet the Press, you're a nerd -- we're all nerds. There doesn't need to be something in the show that's specifically geared toward nerds since the whole show is for nerds.
So, The Nerd Screen is a giant touch-pad video display facilitating the illustration of something called "Coffee vs. Chicken." Again, I remind you: this is Meet the Press. Essentially, Todd discussed how the forthcoming midterms would break down between "Starbucks Nation" and "Chick-Fil-A Country." In other words, rural or "exurban" voters are Chick-Fil-A people, while urban and suburban voters are Starbucks people. That's it: another way to hamfistedly divide the nation between red-state Republican voters and blue-state Democratic voters. It might as well have been called the Magically Edgy Doofus Machine, because it explained the midterms in the most moronic way possible.
As if Americans haven't been polarized enough by the news media, online and off, now Meet the Press is further polarizing voters based on where they eat and whether they drink coffee, even though it's a foregone conclusion that many Democratic voters eat at Chick-Fil-A and many Republican voters order coffee at Starbucks. Hell, I personally know one Republican voter who frequents Starbucks so often he's been appointed the de facto "mayor" of that location. But in a post-9/11 world, anyone who uses the word "patriot" must be a Republican, while anyone who doesn't mangle the English language must be a Democrat. So it goes for junk food choices.
Todd went on to swipe, iPhone style, to maps of Colorado and Iowa, and noted that the rural "Chick-Fil-A areas" of both states -- painted, doy, red on the map -- would support GOP candidates, while metropolitan areas -- doy, blue -- would support Democratic candidates. Stop the presses. That means, where there are population centers, in and around cities like Des Moines or Denver, Democrats will do well in the midterms. Where there are fewer people, Republicans will do well.
The truth of the matter is that, generally, Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks are located in the same regions of the country; more locations in populated areas, fewer in remote rural areas. (If you're opening a franchise, here's a pro-tip: put it where lots of people live. You're welcome.) Iowa, for instance, has only six Chick-Fil-A restaurants while there are 45 Starbucks. What does this tell us? Is Iowa more conservative or more liberal? Chuck Todd told us that Iowa was mostly red -- mostly a Chick-Fil-A state. But there are more Starbucks locations, so that can't possibly be true.
Sure, Chick-Fil-A's ownership is conservative and very Christian, while Starbucks isn't. But other than the very, very politically active (you, me) do any Normals really care about that? Probably not. This is nothing more than Meet the Press reinforcing stereotypes and in the worst way possible: by fast food preference. From now on, if you're a Republican, you'd better wear a fool-proof disguise the next time you buy a coffee or else the gun-toting redneck militia will mistake you for a latte-sipping Democratic dainty. And if you're a Democrat, don't get caught eating Jesus Chicken by the Soros brown-shirts or else they'll dispatch the gay mafia to confiscate your hammer and sickle.
All because Meet the Press wants to be "edgy."
Note to all hard news outlets... you know what'd be a nice change of pace? Switch the red and blue color-coding every election cycle, and stop finding new ways to divide the country through simplistic metaphors. Base your analysis on cold, hard demographic breakdowns, and treat elections the way they ought to be by a news organization: as a democratic process with serious consequences. We're not 4-year-olds who need politics explained using Happy Meal toys, so leave the comedy and childish metaphors to comedians and commentators, and give us the news with earnest integrity and a little bit of heft for a change.