Momentum Inertia

Much has already been said and written about how the 24-hour news cycle is destroying democracy and making us all dumber. I won't tread over that familiar ground, but in the wake of Hillary Clinton's somewhat surprising performance in yesterday's Democratic primaries, one Pundinista word is now firmly lodged in my linguistic craw.


Momentum is the force or speed of movement, as in "the car gained momentum going downhill." To me, it's really just a better-sounding "acceleration." It implies something gaining velocity or intensity over a period of time--something whose pattern can only be disrupted or reversed by a dramatic intervention. 

In football, momentum can shift quickly via a big play... a fumble, sack, interception or goal-line stand, to name a few. So, too, can momentum shift quickly in politics. The analogy seems simple. Hillary's victories yesterday were the metaphorical "big play." So what the hell is my problem?

I don't know. I just think there's a difference in cause and effect. In football, momentum shifts usually because one or two players make "the big play" directly. In politics, the big play depends on the actions of voters. Hillary can't sack Obama without the voters voting for her. It's their big play, not hers. She can influence the play, but she can't make it herself.

So if Obama ever had "the momentum" going into yesterday, then voters wouldn't have picked Hillary. But they did. So either Hillary was actually the one who had the momentum going into Tuesday (by definition, because she won), or there's simply no such thing as momentum. Of course, now the residents of Inner Pundistan are claiming that "Hillary has the momentum." But what if Obama wins the next two primaries?

Message to the Media-ocracy: Let's agree to stop with the momentum inertia. Voters vote. Candidates win. Candidates lose. That's what happens. It doesn't make for great television, but it's closer to the truth.


Anonymous said…
That's quite the momentous statement. Oooh, here comes the girls with the briefcases now!
Scott said…
Brand Momentum. Hmmmm.
Anonymous said…
you're just bitter because Clinton won :)

If you want to bitch about the coverage, how about the fact that pundits are just lame mouth-pieces for their candidates. It's unbelievable what passes as "news".

That said, you are absolutely right: voters vote (unless you live in Florida)


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