I decided several years ago that we do better when we don’t have the same party in charge of both the Senate and the House as well as the Executive Branch. When the Republicans are in charge they tend to do a lot of things in one direction; when the Democrats are in charge they tend to do a lot in another direction. When they are sharing control, they tend not to be able to do anything. We seem to be better off when the Federal Government does nothing. It tours out that there is actually some data that supports this contention. Of course, I don’t have a staff of Washington reporters trying to look for headlines everyday. Provocative headlines draw attention. The media need that to sell TV time and newspaper ads. If the government doing something, It’s easier work for reporters and it sells newspapers and air time. So the media don’t like it when there is nothing to report. So they can be very critical when there is nothing to report. They tell us the government is not doing anything to help us and they the juicy parts of any and all disagreements.
The current age of instant news may be a curse as well as a blessing. The news media have access to everything that goes on in government it would seem. We have live access to the Senate and House speeches through C-Span. Many committee hearings are taped and reporting done on the six o’clock news. Open meeting laws seem to cover everything, and if reporters are not allowed to access something, they write opinion pieces accusing politician of trying to work against the public interest by hiding it. Not only that, but the Washington news people seem to be inbred. A few years ago, when CNN was still trying to get established, I heard a CNN executive talk about how the Washington press corps all seem to think alike. He said they go to the same briefings, go to the same watering holes and restaurants and mostly talk to each other. The result of that in most groups that I have been associated with, is that after a while everyone tends to hold the same opinion. The CNN exec said that seems to be what happens and since they rarely talk to anyone outside the beltway, they think everyone thinks as they do. And one of the ideas that they seem to think is with instant communications, they are doing us all a great service by putting the voters in charge of everything.
Maybe. But I think retiring Senator Tom Coburn is right, Washington seems to work on symptoms, not on the real problems. (See my previous post – “Take Two Aspirin and Call Me in the Morning”). What we need is people in Washington with the time and desire to understand the “root causes” of some of our issues. Most of voters who are working for a living don’t have the time to do the research and the thinking that is required to do that. For most of us that requires some quiet time with the option of changing our mind as we learn more. That’s hard to do when everything we do is or say is broadcast on the 6:00 news. And it’s difficult to modify one’s position when you know that the press will call you “two-faced” for not sticking to your original idea. Coburn said that political considerations get in the way of reasoned solutions to real problems. And in the Washington environment, why would we expect otherwise. Former President James Buchanan, more that 150 years ago used the phrase “an incurable disease in the public mind” when he was talking about the public loosing some rationality as a result of mis-information or incomplete information and that becoming accepted as fact based conclusions. And the newspapers did more to aid in the spreading of this disease than to promote a more balanced view of the state of the world. I believe that our world of instantaneous communications has not solved this problem, but only made the disease spread faster.
Our problem is more that no one having the motivation or taking the time to understand the root causes of some of some of our difficulties. The voters seem to recognize when things don’t work, so every 4 or 8 years we change the political parties, but we never seem to solve the some of the problems. So maybe we are better off when nothing gets done, except that when that happens we have to listen to all the accusations of blame, coming form both the politicians and the press. So is it any wonder that a lot of us never listen to the network news?
We needed a change, but the results may be indifferent. The media are not likely to change, nor are the voters going to really understand the reasoned options. And politics – how things are made to sound on the TV or in the paper will continue to reign.
If you agree with this, please pass it along, we need to combat the “diseases in the public mind”.