January 25, 2015

Eyeing Congress: Reid Battered, Not Beaten

Sure, sure. It’s a visual metaphor for how Democrats got pummelled from the Right in the mid-term elections. Or it’s a visual metaphor for how the fiesty Senator from Nevada can only see political issues from the Left. Because of the way this photograph blends the image of a well-known politician with the signs of serious injury, all the familiar politics-as-war tropes come to mind, and it’s tempting to just roll the tape and see which ones stick. This is how a photograph can too easily reinforce an old, shopworn model of bare knuckle congressional politics where two entrenched opponents duke it out because, as the saying goes, politics is a blood sport. But maybe this line of thinking says more about the operation of the photograph than it does about the nature of politics.

To be honest, Harry Reid’s rough accident earlier this month involving an exercise machine crash looks as if it has gotten his 2015 off to a bad start. Having just been demoted to ‘former’ Senate majority leader, we might be tempted to wonder if his unfortunate mishap only adds injury to insult. But Harry Reid has earned his reputation as a fighter, and judging by his performance in front of the cameras, he’s still earning his stripes, mostly because of his unflinching insistence that when it comes the Democrats’ chances in the 114th Congress, things are still looking up.

At the same time, one of the requirements of congressional leadership is that you are constantly in the public eye. So when things get ugly, it’s inevitable that people demand a closer look. This is why framing is (almost) everything when it comes to visual politics.

Seen from this angle, where it’s more about claws and mettle, Reid appears in all respects battered but certainly not beaten, still determined to keep Blue America from losing its focus.

— Philip Perdue

(photo 1: J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo. caption: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., 75, talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, for the first time since he suffered an eye injury and broken ribs on New Year’s Day, when a piece of exercise equipment he was using broke and sent him smashing into cabinets at his new home. Reid says his re-election bid in 2016 on track even though he’s been sidelined by an exercise accident. photo 2: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images. caption: US Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) listens to questions during a press conference on Capitol Hill on January 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. Reid, who was injured in an exercise accident last year, returned to the Senate this week and will need surgery on his eye on January 26.)

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Philip Perdue
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