I'd argue that the climate in Washington is being shaped by an artificial presentation of attitudes on cable TV and talk radio. To view and to listen is to become convinced that there are only two, diametrically opposed philosophical approaches to the issues. And yet, working daily in both mediums, I often think that the only people I meet who see the world entirely through liberal or conservative lenses are the hosts with whom I rub shoulders.
Buying gas or groceries or attending back-to-school nights, I speak to people for whom the issues are a mixed bag; they are liberal on some, conservative on others, middle of the road on the rest. But politicians don't take their cues from those people. No, politicians emulate the world of punditry.
Any sane person, possessing a modicum of analytical reasoning skill knows this. Several liberal and progressive bloggers like myself have been saying thins for a long time. But to see it in the conservative love fest that is the Op-Ed section of the Post is both refreshing, and disconcerting.
Refreshing in that the Obama bashing that the writers of opinion there (All supposedly liberals except Charles Krathammer) engage in daily has done nothing to move the country along to a better path. This has the potential to change that, in as much as admitting you have a problem is the first step to addressing it.
Disconcerting in that politics, and politicians, are most likely to now ignore the conclusions the author brings to the table, because these conclusions do not serve the politician as overlord-centric world view that many of them hold. If the media points out that politicians in DC are in an information bubble, fed a corrosive diet of distorted mis-information, then the politicians become nothing more then puppets for the interests that control those media (GE, anyone?). And no self-respecting national politician will ever admit to being a puppet.
All of which leaves more elected officials beholden to the fringe elements of their parties, which in turn means less gets done. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it is robbing our televisions and radios of the substantive dialogue the country desperately needs, while leaving our politics a petty and unproductive mess.
Sadly, though, Mr. Smerconish leaves off just as the "gettin' gets good." There's no witty rejoined to his media colleagues about ways to pull back. No forceful directive to we, the viewers as to how best to pull out of the death spiral. No politically savvy homecoming speech to the politicians that will invite them to break the trend and buck back to the political center where many Americans still vainly live.
And that's an equally troubling problem with political commentary today. Glenn Greenwald, one of the progressive bloggers I most respect, is guilty of the same thing. Yes, you have pointed out a serious flaw that exists in the way we as a nation conduct our business. Yes, you've made that flaw personal for each of us. But what the bloody hell do you think we should do about it?
In a day and age where sound bites rule our lives, and two or three generations of Americans keep people they know and love up to date in 140 characters, does Mr. Smerconish really believe that the reader of the Post will have the first clue how to deal with this media driven forced polarization? Couldn't he have thrown in a short, three sentence paragraph at least hinting at the answer?
Since he couldn't, I will. Turn off the TV. Put Rush in his place by switching to baseball. Write electronic letters to the editor (it doesn't take any longer then composing a good email). Email their ombudsman. Attend media sponsored public fora, and don't take No for an answer at the mike.
And for heaven's sake, WRITE EMAILS TO YOUR POLITICIANS! They are all looking for some political shield to hide behind in doing their work, and if they have 10,000 constituent emails to hide behind (since they all want to get re-elected), its easier for them to take on BP, GE and the like.
oh, and least I forget -