Political Paradise in Two Paragraphs

I have never read a more precient statement about how politics should work – even in an imperfect world – than this comment by Charles:

I don’t think we should abandon partisanship, but we need to abandon incivility and mindless unfounded attacks. I don’t want conservatives or liberals to change their principles, or to compromise them to gain short-term political points. I want them to confront the many serious problems that we have in this country and articulate their proposed solutions. Instead of focusing on who is scoring points or who is ahead in the polling or who made the most recent boo-boo, let’s focus on policy ideas and substance.

Our media is unwilling to do its job. There are no serious long-term investigations, no serious analysis of policy ideas, and no holding of our elected officials to account (except for sexual misbehavior of course). All those things are too expensive and don’t bring in enough revenue. Having some partisan hack shouting down anyone opposed to him or inviting a parade of other partisan hacks to spout off incoherent, uninformed nonsense is both cheap to produce and profitable. It’s time “we the people” stopped listening to this. We have a political system to fix, an economy to fix, a pointless war machine to stop. We need to learn to work together not revel in transient “victories” over our political opponents.

If 60% of voters could come to believe this and act/vote accordingly our political culture would be healed almost overnight.

17 comments for “Political Paradise in Two Paragraphs

  1. Laura Miller
    April 2, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Amen to that! That’s a fantastic quote and truth.

  2. Barbara
    April 2, 2010 at 10:18 am

    When I suggested we “abandon partisanship” I was not proposing we dump the two party system or that we do away with public debate. I was referring to the “incivility and mindless unfounded attacks.” I was not suggestion that “conservatives or liberals to change their principles, or to compromise them to gain short-term political points,” or “focusing on who is scoring points or who is ahead in the polling or who made the most recent boo-boo.” Those excellent descriptions are precisely the problem I see as partisanship. Unfortunately, that seems to be what is most important to our elected officials, both State and Federal.

    I’m with Charles in wanting “them to confront the many serious problems that we have in this country and articulate their proposed solutions.” I so appreciate thoughtful bloggers (like you, David) who will discuss issues without intentionally using misinformation and demonizing the proponents and opponents.

    Yes, Utah Legislature, “let’s focus on policy ideas and substance” instead of message bills and retribution for those who don’t agree with your point of view or making lousy public policy (like SB275) because you are in power and you can and you don’t want to share that power with “the people” that you are supposed to represent.

    What I object to is “having some partisan hack shouting down anyone opposed to him or inviting a parade of other partisan hacks to spout off incoherent, uninformed nonsense” (which describes my State Senator to a T). If I were more articulate like, like Charles is, I would have explained that “we need to learn to work together not revel in transient ‘victories’ over our political opponents.” That is the “partisanship” that should be abandoned. Thanks Charles, for your insight and writing skills. Thanks, David, for highlighting his comments. I whole heartedlly agree with your assessment of the results should we ever see the “ideal” Charles outlined.

    • April 2, 2010 at 10:29 am

      The reason that I highlighted Charles’ comment is that I believe that most people who desire an end to partisanship really mean an end to incivility and mindless unfounded attacks as opposed to an end to honest policy disagreements and disparate perspectives in debate.

  3. Tom
    April 2, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Yes, but…

    The reason for the vitriol is that it works, however abhorrent you or I may find it. The short-term gains from attacks are significant. Rove showed us this, and behavioral research supports the notion. (A somewhat sad commentary on human nature.)

    And what is “the media’s” job? Journalists work for corporations. Corporations exist to make money. It is thus the responsibility of corporate employees to act in a way that makes their company money. Doubly true as media corporations struggle for relevance in an information society. Ethics and idealism are nice (and it would certainly be great to have someone take this responsibility so we don’t have to shoulder it as individuals), but until we institutionalize a different set of incentives and deterrents for “the media” we’ll keep getting more of the same.

    • April 2, 2010 at 1:37 pm

      “it works”

      I guess that depends on what your goal is. If it is to gain and retain power then you are right. The unfortunate truth is that the majority in both parties is blinded by that short term goal.

      Charles and I (among others of course) are interested in good governance rather than power. Vitriol etc. does nothing to foster good governance.

      As for the media, you are right about what drives their coverage. The thing is, the profit motive would work just fine in a society that values substance over entertainment.

  4. April 3, 2010 at 10:19 am

    I disagree with the blanket negative description of our media in the above quote- I doubt the sort of lecture posted above has as much impact -as does recognition of the positive. If there is is recognition of what is right there is a shift in focus to that model. I do not know what media the author of above post follows but I mostly watch Fox which I think is dong an extradinary job. I think Fox is a Godsend in these times. I especially applaud Glenn Beck who deserves a lot of credit for placing center focus on the original words of our founding fathers into the public dialogue.

  5. Charles D
    April 3, 2010 at 7:14 am

    Tom raises a good point – how do we provide a different set of incentives and deterrents for the media, without impinging on our right to a free press?

    David, the profit motive would work to value substance over entertainment, but only if you are willing to make a modest and reasonable profit. If you must continually increase your profit margins and share prices quarter over quarter to satisfy the Wall Street money managers, you must do whatever is necessary to get more readers/viewers, and substantive political analysis and reporting is unlikely to get you there.

    The good news is that we all seem to agree on the goal – more substance in media. Here are my initial suggestions: 1) break up the media conglomerates by returning to the FCC regulations of the 1960’s at least. We could prohibit any company from owning media and something else (like say nuclear weapons production or entertainment parks) and establish a maximum number of media outlets that could be under the same ownership. 2) We could reinstate enforcement of the law that broadcast media outlets must serve the public interest and demonstrate that to retain their licenses. 3) We could impose public interest requirements on cable, satellite, and other transmission media similar to those on broadcast.

    I would also favor a significant new investment in public TV and radio that would end corporate contributions to public broadcasting and significantly enhance their ability to develop new programming. I suspect that would be a bit more controversial.

    • April 5, 2010 at 9:17 am

      I would have said that the profit motive would work only in a society that valued substance over entertainment enough to show it with their wallets.

      Perhaps my biggest concern with the regulations you suggest is in how to define public interest requirements. That, in and of itself becomes a political issue and is one of the reasons that large regulatory agencies tend to favor large players in the industry they regulate regardless of what industry we are talking about.

  6. April 5, 2010 at 9:07 am

    I think I can safely assume that Charles, as a liberal in New York, spends little if any time watching FOX News.

  7. April 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Lberals are among the Fox audience and they also are guests- interesting how many have buyer's remorse these days. However, If Charles does not warch Fox news, I can understand the reasons for his opinion.

  8. April 5, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    I'm sure there are liberals in the audiance of FOX News but they are less likely to watch FOX than MSNBC.

  9. April 5, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    But of course- But when the boredom hits….

  10. Charles D
    April 5, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Do you think we could arrive at a mutually acceptable definition of the public interest? I don’t think it’s so difficult. I’ll think about what I would want if conservatives owned all the media, and you think about what you would want if liberals owned all the media and I bet we are pretty close.

    And David Miller, no I don’t watch Fox News or for that matter any television news. None of the cable or broadcast channels provide any real investigative reporting or cogent analysis so there’s not much point in watching any of them.

    • April 5, 2010 at 1:09 pm

      Could you and I sit down and come to an agreement? I’d say there’s a decent chance we could but you know it would not be ua making the decision – it would be people who would be appointed by politicians and influenced by existing media organizations Even if it were you and I, I would not trust that the people coming after us would not twist the definition in favor of one viewpoint or another.

  11. Charles D
    April 5, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    And therein lies the problem. And those politicians and those media organizations would be spending most of their time thinking about money – either campaign financing or profits – and the public interest would be a lost cause. That’s exactly where we are now and how we got there.

  12. Charles D
    April 6, 2010 at 7:21 am

    All the Fox references are interesting. It seems there are some that think that if you don’t listen to Fox, you aren’t really getting the news. That’s a curious opinion. All our media are in business to maximize shareholder value, not to serve the public interest. By catering to a particular demographic, networks are able to attract more viewers and more frequent viewers and provide advertisers with more precise audience demographics.

    All the mainstream media (and I include Fox) fail to provide good in-depth investigation and analysis of government claims. Just because the government says it’s so, doesn’t make it so. If a Democratic government says the sky is blue, Fox says it’s red. If a Republican government says the sky is red, some MSNBC shows will insist it is blue. Neither one of them actually sends people out to discover the truth (too expensive). The truth is a problematic thing. Sometimes the government is lying and if you call them on it, you won’t get those prized 1-on-1 interviews with key figures and those “anonymous” sources won’t give you scoops. Sometimes the opposition is lying, and if you call them on it, your partisan viewers will go bananas and change channels.

    Media also doesn’t engage in serious discussion of the issues. All the cable and broadcast news organizations invite in “experts” that are mostly other journalists or staff members of partisan “think tanks” when they need to “debate” an issue. The spectrum of opinion is usually very narrow and tilted toward the opinion of the program host. We rarely see any experts who actually ARE experts. Where are the professors who have studied the topic for decades? Of course they aren’t as charismatic usually and you can’t really predict what they’ll say so they aren’t a safe guest, but wouldn’t it be nice to have an expert who actually knew what he or she was talking about?

    Thankfully we still have a free and open internet where a person can read a wide variety of sources. You can read left-wing news, right-wing news, foreign news media, opinions spanning the spectrum from the lunatic right to the lunatic left. It’s more work but more informative. And I don’t have to listen to some idiot who thinks that shouting down people who disagree with him is a fair and balanced debate.

    • April 6, 2010 at 11:06 am

      It sounds to me like you have read “Breaking the News.” If you haven’t, you would enjoy it. You would also enjoy “Amusing Ourselves to Death.”

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