Sunday, June 15, 2014

Three Meet the Press Quotes and the Beating Drum

Today, I thought I would include three short quotes from the Sunday Morning talk show Meet the Press, that to me exemplify everything that is wrong with media today. The first came in a nice piece remembering the beloved Tim Russert, who died in 2008. To honor his memory, David Gregory brought out his son (now a reporter at NBC News) to talk about a new introduction he wrote to his dad’s book about his grandfather and their special relationship. After talking about the major effort his father made to see him, even as he worked long hours seven days a week, he made the following comment, “You don’t have to be rich to try. You don’t have to be rich to care.” Seriously? So now rich fathers are implicitly better than everyone else’s? I’m sure he didn’t really mean anything by the comment, but it’s just the bizarre nature of the contemporary moment, when polls find that the rich these days really do think they are superior to everyone else and can thus talk down to the public with a paternalism that seems to predate the French revolution and guillotine.

Earlier on the same show, Republican strategist Steve Schmidt spoke rather articulately on the problem of conservative immigration rhetoric and its relationship to a viable run at the Presidency: “It’s impossible for us to build a coalition to win the presidency with less than 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. Mitt Romney is at 27 percent, the electorate is going to be two percent less White. We don’t have an opportunity to make our case, deliver our message, make the case that our policies are good for 100 percent of the people until we can effectively deal with this issue.” While he is obviously right, the most compelling thing to me about this statement is the absurdity that any political agenda could serve even close to “100 percent” of the population. If that were true, we wouldn’t even need democracy – we could just have a host of experts, a philosopher king or even a coterie of selfless Plutocrats that could enact the policies that help us all. The funny thing is I think he actually believed the BS he was shoveling; showing the general degradation of not only conservative thinking, but thinking in general.

That thought was further exemplified by columnist Ruth Mark of the Washington Post who continued the discussion with this gem, “There is an easy road ahead for the Republican party.” She went on to highlight a fascinating Pew Research Institute poll that claimed both Liberals and Conservatives have gotten more liberal on the issue of immigration. But as the great cynic H. L. Mencken once said, “Explanations exist; they have existed for all times; there are always well-known solutions to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.” Because while it might be true that there has been a movement to the left on immigration, there has also been a movement to the left on economic issues, on corporate and high income taxation, on equality and gay rights. But she is speaking of a party that works against all these popular opinions and feeds on the fear and hatred of a base that gets older and older and whiter and whiter over time. This easy way forward is one of the reasons Cantor lost and it would leave the entire party without a key element of their platform – blaming everyone for the decline of America except for the fat cat capitalists they serve.

Ignored by most was the heart of the matter, as highlighted by Eurasia Group analyst Sean West: “"Cantor was the hub for finance, the hub for a host of big corporations that could trust him to get things done. He was the one standing between the conservative pitchforks and the business community on a whole host of issues." It appears that he lost not only because of his more moderate stance on immigration, but because his ambition, ideological flexibility and policy of serving the power elites of the country simply turned off his constituents enough to go for the unknown “conservative populist” that seemed to at least listen to their concerns. And thus one of the real movers and shakers in DC had so forgotten that he was supposed to actually care about the people he represented, they finally said “enough!” That is a much more interesting take on his upset loss and might actually scare some politicians straight on both sides of the aisle.

Missing from the show in a general sense is a deep level of criticality beyond the Realpolitik strategy of the moment. They speak of how Hillary Clinton can overcome the fact that she is rich, how a Republican presidential candidate can overcome the stigma of their anti-immigrant attitudes, how the Republican party can do a complete about face on immigration without any ramifications and how the wealthy television personality should apparently be considered the “model father” we should all aspire to emulate. At the heart of it, is the simple problem that the media – particularly on television and the in the elite print newspapers and magazines – has substantially more in common with the politicians, celebrities and businessmen than the people they are supposed to be informing. Since almost all of them now work for big corporations themselves, make huge salaries, add supplemental money from book deals and speaking fees and thus live the lives of the top 10 (if not 1) percent, can we really expect them to be more critical. The answer to that question is clear and thus the bind we find ourselves in today, seeking out a representative, any representative, that might actually not only hear what people say, but work to see that they fight for what those people want, need and desire.

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