Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Assaulting Democracy Instead of the Democrats May Be Too Radical For Prime Time

Dukakis' Assault on the White House
The lunatic wing of the lunatic party has taken over Washington, D.C. 

As Dan Froomkin puts it: "holding the entire government hostage while demanding the de facto repeal of a president's signature legislation and not even bothering to negotiate is by any reasonable standard an extreme political act." 

This may be historically unprecedented, but James Fallows warned us to be on the look out for false equivalence in the media:  "As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a 'standoff,' a 'showdown,' a 'failure of leadership,' a sign of 'partisan gridlock,' or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism and an inability to see or describe what is going on."  Because "this isn't 'gridlock.' It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us -- and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too."

Unsurprisingly, the initial reporting failed Fallows' False Equivalence Test, and would lead one to believe that this was simply business as usual in the Beltway.  No one is at fault because both sides do it.  Republican lies are just one side of the "he said, she said" style of reporting.  Indeed, Chuck Todd, the posterchild for the traditional media, admitted it that he did not believe it was the media's job to correct the Republican lies -- its the President's job.

At first, the media appeared unable to tell the truth if it meant siding with one political party over the other or as Froomkin describes it, "the political media's aversion to doing anything that might be seen as taking sides — combined with its obsession with process — led them to actively obscure the truth in their coverage of the votes. If you did not already know what this was all about, reading the news would not help you understand."

Joshua Holland aptly described journalists as "frogs in the proverbial pot . . . slowly acclimat[ing] to these extreme, democracy-suffocating circumstances and now seem incapable of describing what’s they’re seeing. Framing everything as a standard-issue partisan fight is almost a professional imperative for many journalists."

So, Joe Nocera, from his perch at the New York Times, points out that, sure, the Republicans have Ted Cruz, but the Democrats used to have their own radicals, like Mike Dukakis.  How's that for false equivalence?  (Rick Perlstein takes on this maddening nonsense)

The consequence of years of this kind of failed journalism, as Froomkin points out, is more extremism: 
When the media coverage seeks down-the-middle neutrality despite one party's outlandish conduct, there are no political consequences for their actions. With no consequences for extremism, politicians who have succeeded using such conduct have an incentive to become even more extreme. The more extreme they get, the further the split-the-difference press has to veer from common sense in order to avoid taking sides. And so on.
The Democratic Party has usually been complicit in this dynamic by trying to appear reasonable and open to compromise no matter how obstructionist the other side is being.  But, with Obama and the Democrats remaining unified and refusing to cave to the craziness (at least for now), while the Republicans appear beholden to the wackiest in their party, there appear to be some cracks in the media's knee-jerk neutrality. (The fact that Wall Street is getting nervous helps too)

Even Thomas Friedman, wanker extraordinaire, who always seems to hope for some moderate leadership to bridge the divide between left and right -- has finally seen the light:  "What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule. President Obama must not give in to this hostage taking — not just because Obamacare is at stake, but because the future of how we govern ourselves is at stake."

Editorial pages of newspapers around the country are taking note, blaming the Republican Party for shutting down the government, undermining democracy and threatening the health of the economy. 

The Washington Post, the establishment's establishment paper, a few days ago argued, in a both-sides do it editorial entitled "U.S. Congress’s dereliction of leadership on government shutdown" that "the grown-ups in the room will have to do their jobs, which in a democracy with divided government means compromising for the common good" has come around.  Now its: "House Republicans are failing Americans in their effort to kill Obamacare," calling Republican's actions "beyond the pale" and demanding that they "fulfill their basic duties to the American people or make way for legislators who will." 

What a difference a few days make.  The Republicans have launched an assault on Democracy not the Democratic Party.  Have they finally gone too far?

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