Let’s Just Say It: The Republicans AND the Media Are the Problem — No wonder the public remains so misinformed, as bigfoot pundits not only whitewash Republican extremism but paint Obama’s soggy centrism in false hues as its ideological equivalent.
Many mysteries plague us regarding the press coverage of the Obama era, but one strikes me as central to our political predicament. Why, after everyone else has given it up, do members of the mainstream media persist in helping to hide—and therefore empower—the radicalization of the Republican Party?
The GOP strategy was clear from the start. Republicans, circa 2009, were no longer interested in bipartisan solutions to America’s problems. As then–Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told National Journal, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Senator Jim DeMint famously promised healthcare reform could be used to “break” Obama from day one. And that was before the Tea Party even existed.
Part of the problem, for far too long, was that President Obama collaborated in the charade. He was so invested in the notion that both sides could just get along and legislate together that he couldn’t part with the illusion he had helped to create. His communitarian rhetoric, together with his compromise-in-advance legislative strategy, was always oriented toward inclusiveness, consensus-building and, ultimately, political passivity. As a result, Obama allowed the Republicans to stymie his ability to act on behalf of most of his agenda, beginning with the underfunded stimulus and carrying through with virtually every single initiative he undertook throughout the first two years of his term.
Obama began to change his tune after last year’s debt-crisis fiasco, yet the MSM still fails to notice. We’ve just experienced a GOP primary process in which a number of candidates repeatedly made statements that would lead one to question their sanity. In most cases, however, the reporters covering them repeated these assertions without even trying to judge their veracity—much as if, say, regarding climate change, the views of 97 percent of the world’s climatologists were no more compelling than those of a few Koch-funded quacks.
No wonder the public remains so confused and misinformed about the realities of American politics, as bigfoot pundits—committed to the mindlessness of what I call “on-the-one-handism”—not only whitewash Republican extremism, but paint Obama’s soggy centrism in false hues as its ideological equivalent. This exercise demands that these same pundits ignore the president’s actual words, and it is a task they meet with relish. The New York Times’s Thomas Friedman suffers from the worse case of this malady, but as Talking Points Memo’s Benjy Sarlin notes in a post called “Pundits Urge President Obama to Back President Obama’s Proposals,” it’s become an epidemic.