Archive for the ‘partisanship’ tag
Symbolic bipartisanship ≠ partisanship or progress.
As a recent New York Times editorial noted:
Mr. Obama’s speech (the State of the Union) offered a welcome contrast to all of the posturing that passes for business in the new Republican-controlled House.
To that posturing, we can add the House’s largely symbolic vote to repeal the historic health care reform bill passed last year and the House’s reckless resolution to roll back domestic spending to 2008 levels.
And also to it, the graphic here, in which members of Congress sit, as if friends everyone, intermingled between Reps and Dems. This, of course, stands in staunch opposition to most if not all previous State of the Union speeches in recent memory. In years past, Congress members would sit on separate ends of the chamber, literally a house divided. Of course, it’s still a house divided, although people like John Boehner would have folks believe the GOP is extending a hand across the aisle:
We had hoped to hear a new commitment to keep his promises to govern from the center, change the tone in Washington, and work with both parties in a bipartisan way to help small businesses create jobs and get our economy moving again. Unfortunately, the President and the Democrats in charge of Congress still aren’t listening to the American people.
Now, if you aren’t a tad offended that politicians, including Obama, make it a regular practice to put words into your mouth, pretending to be omniscient on how you want the government to act, you aren’t paying close enough attention. More importantly, however, members of the GOP have not listened to economic experts, who have said time and again, that we didn’t spend enough in trying to jump start the economy.
But I digress. Here’s the melting pot Congress at its symbolic best:
Anyone who reads this blog well knows by now that I make no exceptions when it comes to holding leaders, folks in the media and others accountable for their words or actions. While my overall inclination is toward a certain ideology that generally puts caring for people above amassing wealth, from Democrats to Republicans to Independents, everyone’s feet is held to the fire here.
I think John McCain is one of the most well-respected leaders in Washington, and it has been because of his willingness to work with folks on both sides of the aisle to get things done on the Hill. That, and he’s also one of the most pragmatic, clear thinking among his Republican brethren.
But nothing gets me charged more than exposing outright deceptiveness for what it is, and it can come from the left as much as from the right.
Yesterday, I came across this story from The Daily Beast, which claimed that McCain said on a radio show that he would not work with Democrats and reach across the aisle on the issue of immigration reform.
The originally linked story is from Think Progress, which, it’s no secret, is a progressive website, that probably, just as much as conservative ones, attempts to prop up its messages by begging, borrowing, stealing or by whatever other means to A) trash the opposing sides and B) advance its agenda.
This is a contemptible approach, in my view, no matter what side of the aisle you side with, and it’s a dangerous method for democracy as we know it. Let’s take the McCain case. Regarding the issue of immigration reform, a caller asked, and this is pasted straight from Think Progress’s article:
I would like to ask Sen. McCain if he will make a promise on the air now that if we reelect him, he will not reach across the aisle, especially with Lindsey Graham, for comprehensive immigration reform. Will you not do that for the time you’re in office. (I deleted the unnecessarily bold text where Think Progress claimed McCain wouldn’t reach across the aisle. Text is text. Bolding it doesn’t make it anymore important.)
McCain’s reply as recorded by Think Progress:
Yes ma’am. … I am promising that I will try to address the issue of immigration in a way that is best for the United States of America.
Now, when reading this for the first time, I thought the “…” was a little puzzling. I thought: “Was the ‘Yes ma’am’ just an acknowledgment that he would, indeed, not reach across the aisle or, and more plausibly, simply an acknowledgment that McCain heard and understood the lady’s question? From listening to the actual audio, it appears to be the latter. And did you notice the little chuckle McCain made after the woman was done with her question? This leads me to believe that he didn’t necessarily take the lady’s query terribly seriously and was merely attempting to come up with a reasonable response without outright disagreeing with her. Here is the audio:
I’m not confident that he agreed to that particular promise from this obviously right-winger. As for his part, Lindsey Graham, a senator from my home state of South Carolina, has very admirably reached out to folks on the other side of the aisle, as has McCain, to try to come to a consensus on numerous issues, immigration not the least of them.
After his long years of service of trying to work with Democrats and other leaders to get stuff done in Washington, I highly doubt that just because his state has adopted a new immigration bill, that he would decide out of the blue to turn into a rabid partisan crank. Partisanship, after all, is one component of politics that folks hate about Washington. That makes sense for a logical reason: partisanship (unless there’s a supermajority) rarely succeeds in getting anything done. And its folks like McCain and Graham who carrying the torch of the centrist, which, at least in some small part, bolsters my faith in the process.
Given the increased prominence and influence of partisan outfits like MSNBC and FOX News, increased job cutbacks and failed newspapers around the nation, increased information on the Internet, and given a decreased presence of good journalism, many have noted the obvious, and inevitable decline of journalism in recent years.
Michael Gerson, with The Washington Post, is the latest, who in his Nov. 27 column, “Journalism’s Slow, Sad Death,” outlines this decline, describing the old newspaper fronts displayed at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., as looking more like a mausoleum than an archive of living history. And he’s right. Journalism, or more accurately, newspapering, is almost a forgotten craft at this point in our history. But while he calls it a “slow, sad death,” I call it a return to form.
In the dictionary, one can find two definitions for “journalism,” one that includes the stipulation that the news gathering and presentation of information be given without interpretation or analysis, and one that simply says it’s about news gathering. Thus, magazines, tabloid publications and standard broadsheet newspapers “do” journalism, but it’s the broadsheet sort that Gerson is referencing, though he never really makes the distinction.
Of course, those who are actually in the newspaper business know what he means when he says “journalism.” We mean the kind of news gathering that attempts to leave commentary or interpretation out of straight news stories, opinion being relegated to the editorial page. But without that distinction, most people in the body politic can’t even distinguish, or don’t know how to, between the kind of journalism done by People Magazine and that of the L.A. Times or the St. Petersburg Times. Celebrities can’t even distinguish. Often, like in this Tiger Woods fiasco, movie or sports stars will refer to “the media” as a blanket term for everything from the trash tabloid publications to The New York Times. As the L.A. Times reported about Woods:
In a Q&A on his website last month, a fan asked Woods why she rarely saw photos of the couple in the gossip magazines. Woods replied that they have “avoided a lot of media (italics mine) attention because we’re kind of boring,” and he described a home life that included watching rented videos and playing video games with friends.
Many people don’t see the distinction, and that’s one point in which journalism as we know it might be going the way of the dodo. Thanks to the tabloids, Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann and others, true objective journalism is simply being drowned out and stamped down in preference to opinion and innuendo (Admittedly, there is no such thing as “objective” journalism as an ideal. Journalists are not robots, but humans. We interpret news and make decisions on a daily basis about what is important to include in news stories and what is not. That skill set largely distinguishes our product from claptrap put out daily by People, the National Inquirer and others.)
All that said, Gerson’s “slow, sad death” is a return to form because his “journalistic tradition of nonpartisan objectivity” is a fairly new phenomenon beginning at some point in the early 20th century. Prior to that, especially in the yellow journalism era and in the mid-19th century right around the Civil War, newspapers and other publications were merely talking heads for political parties. They took a public stance, one way or the other, for slavery or against, for the Barnburners or against, for the Copperheads or not. So, if print newspapers followed the trend of television news, they will more increasingly become partisan, like FOX News and MSNBC.
I, of course, would hate to see this happen and hope that newspapers still practicing good journalism can find ways to remain solvent. Were newspapers to make that eventual turn, it wouldn’t necessarily be the death of journalism, for journalism, objective or not, can live on without getting “newsprint on your hands,” as Gerson lauds newsmen at the end of his column. But it would be a return to its former self. Remember, journalism wasn’t objective first in its history. It was partisan first. The turn to non-partisanship was a turn for the better, in my view, and here’s hoping print journalism remains true to its 20th-century transformation.