Is it any wonder that they don't get it? In case you missed it, Washington Week had a special edition tonight where they ostensibly took on the question, "Is our political system broken?" The only problem was that they kept looking at it through their narrow prism of "left" and "right".
For about 20 minutes (with the rest of the time devoted to corporate sponsors), we had the pleasure of listening to James Bennet, the new editor of The Atlantic, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, and Priscilla Painton, executive editor of Time Magazine while they mused over the Big Ideas of Democracy. (Yes, de Tocqueville was mentioned not once but twice. One cannot accuse these mighty journalists of not being learned.)
We learned that the blogosphere is responsible for the trivializing of American politics. We learned that politicians are simply too hateful. We learned that the American people are just too apathetic. We learned just how bad talk radio is.
There was casual mention of cable news programs, let's be fair. But that was 20 years ago -- nothing that is relevant today. And certainly not at all relevant to High Minded shows like Washington Week.
And yet, and yet....
...Everything came down to the "right" and the "left." Apparently the politicians and the Fourth Estate are all centrists, but the blogosphere is forcing acrimony from -- yes, you guessed it -- the "right" and the "left."
That left me wondering: Am I on the right or on the left? After all, right and left seem to define politics, at least according to these "experts." And as a blogger, well, I must be the worst of the worst -- an extremist!
I'm against the war on Iraq. That puts me on the left. But I was for the war on Afghanistan. Does that put me on the right? However, I'm for rebuilding Afghanistan and building its economy so that the Taliban has little to stand on.
I'm for the reduction of some taxes, so that puts me on the right. But I believe the poor should be given the greatest tax breaks, which puts me on the left. I believe in encouraging small businesses, which puts me on the right, but I believe small business is helped by things like national healthcare (because healthy workers are in business' self-interest), which puts me on the left, and a balanced budget, which puts me on the right (except for those "rightists" who think pork is a holy mission from God).
I'm for improved education by means of giving more independence to schools, which puts me on the right. But I don't think you can starve schools into improvement, which puts me on the left.
I strongly believe in the Constitution, which makes me an American. I believe the Constitution includes the entire Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment (left) and Second Amendment (right). I believe a woman is not a breeder slave of the State, which puts me way way on the left, apparently, if I'm to listen to the pundits. And I believe it's nobody's business -- especially not the Government's -- what happens in a private home (right), including the bedroom (left).
I'm against liberal activist judges (right), but I'm also against conservative activist judges (left).
I believe George W. Bush is probably the worst president this country has ever had (left), and I believe that many, if not most, of the Congressional Democrats aren't worth a bucket of spit (right). (Sorry for the vividness there, but the way they blather, it's the image I get.)
I despise the arrogant blindness of the mainstream media (left and right) -- perhaps that's why I'm labeled by them as being the primary cause of the demise of American politics.
So what is it, Gwen? Am I on the "right" or on the "left" when I believe the conservatives aren't conservative enough and the liberals aren't liberal enough, while believing that there is indeed way too much conflict and strife in Washington?
Maybe the problem is that we keep trying to define our politics along a binary axis -- as if everyone can be plotted along a yardstick, all in line, all in a row, easy to parse, easy to define. Maybe the problem, Gwen, is that even the television news programs with the most promise fall on such easy paradigms.
Needless to say, this week's show -- set as it was at the Aspen Ideas Festival -- was ironically placed, as the ideas were few.
And just like with the prefabricated political "debates" we see every election season, the best questions came not from the reporters but from the audience (who all were presumably just a bunch of radicals to be pegged somewhere along that political yardstick).
The big thing not mentioned in all this brief spectacle? Corporate influence on politics. That's right, the 800 pound gorilla was not mentioned at all. Nary a mention of K Street lobbying dominating legislative efforts (including actually writing the bills our representatives "vote" on). Not a word about how big money distorts political campaigns. Of course, being a blogger, I suppose I'm the cause of the "trivializing of politics" (or some such absurd claim), so let the "experts" from Washington pass judgment.
I've been a big fan of Gwen and Washington Week, but this week they proved just how out of touch they really are. It was all rather disappointing.
Yes, Gwen, our political system is broken. Maybe if you guys listened instead of talked, you might have learned something. Of course, being from television, the idea of listening to the opinions of the citizens whom Politics ostensibly serves is too much of a radical idea. Politics was just so much better when We the People could only bitch over the newspaper or shout at the television. This blogging business has gotta go.
I love you, Gwen, but sometimes you really really just don't get it.