My name is Randy and I’m a political junkie. I get my fix on CNN and MSNBC. They both feature round tables of talking heads. CNN sometimes has a shill that defends the President, and the “debate” ends up with both sides talking, or even yelling, over the other. Not very enlightening. MSNBC usually doesn’t even feature a Trump defender, and their round tables are peopled with those who agree with the host: “You’re right! Excellent point! I agree with that, etc.” Not very enlightening either. I confess I don’t watch “fair and balanced” FOX, although I hear a lot about it.
So when did our political discourse become a reality TV show? With the advent of cable news it has been evolving for some time, even before the current President and reality TV show host gained the office. When I was growing up there were three networks, or 4 if you counted PBS. The most trusted man in America—Walter Cronkite—delivered the news. He and Howard K. Smith, David Brinkley, Chet Huntley, and maybe a few others like Harry Reasoner. Eric Sevareid would give his opinion in his droll Nordic manner. No one yelled. It would be undignified. Now to jazz up the delivery commentators need to provoke reactions, which lead to talking over, and often yelling. To hell with decorum.
Not saying that there wasn’t drama in the past. Look at the McCarthy red scare congressional hearings. Politics has been a contact sport. Case in point: Preston Brooks attacked Charles Sumner with a cane, nearly killing him in the House chamber in 1856 in retaliation for Sumner’s speech against slavery. We haven’t seen actual assaults break out in our time, except at Trump rallies. Make America Great Again by beating up journalists and camera men.
So can a sober, moderate compromiser with a track record of getting things done prevail in the current atmosphere? Sunday in Minneapolis in a snow storm Senator Amy Klobuchar announced her candidacy for President of the United States. It was a good speech filled with progressive talking points. Now the rap is she’s not progressive enough to get through the primaries. She simultaneously is seen as Too Nice by her demeanor, and Too Mean to her staff. Oh well, time will tell. If she emerges from the pack it will be interesting to see what put down nickname Trump gives her.
In the meantime, while people are sniping at each other, there are real problems to address: climate change, infrastructure, health care including the price of drugs, the opioid crisis, immigration reform, Russian meddling in elections, education, the growing wealth gap, data privacy, to name a few. Will we ever set politics aside and work on them together? It’s hard to be optimistic when heels are dug in. When political junk gets in the way.