Communication and politics: What a drag

Aside from being heartily amused by the rhetoric of what passes for political discourse in 2015, I’m also rather concerned about what it says about the power — or lack of power — of communication in the political realm.

Let’s start with the amused portion: We have an avowed socialist who doesn’t believe in the replacement of private property with state ownership. That make him more of a social democrat rather than an actual socialist. Socialism is the public ownership of property, goods and the means of production. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/socialism). It is an economic term, not a political one.

We have an avowed Democrat whose track record is moderate by Democratic Party history, and whose husband declared, “the era of big government is over,’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1996_State_of_the_Union_Address ) but who has spent the entirety of her presidential run so far tacking left to appeal to the wing of her party that wants the U.S. to become a European Social Democracy.

We have a bloviating egomaniac with no filter representing the fever swamp id of the most afraid constituency, railing against not the dying of the light, but the continued ceaseless change of the United States itself.

There are several highly capable people running alongside the loudmouthed lout — a couple of U.S. senators, two sitting governors, a neurosurgeon, a former CEO and several others (regardless of what one thinks of their political perspectives, they are accomplished people.)  And yet, polls show the moron leading the race.

It’s either laugh or cry, and I refuse to cry. You can’t make this stuff up — it’s quite entertaining to read the news stories that emerge…

Now for the “concerned” portion:

The Twitter age has demanded we communicate with brevity, but at the cost of probity, wisdom, depth and breadth. Politics should not be ephemeral. Politics should be an exercise in intellectual discourse. The news media no longer serve as skeptical third parties striving to attain fairness (quote from my journalism professor: “We’re human and cannot truly be unbiased, but we can be fair.”)  Instead, readers/viewers/ listeners need to fend for themselves in sorting through increasingly biased coverage. Watching broadcast news is worse than a root canal.

Other media are similarly challenging — read the NY Times, the WSJ, National Review and The Nation. You hardly know they’re talking about the same country, let alone the same people and events.

The language candidates and their handlers use make things worse, not better. Even my words above largely are attacks based on something other than mere perspective – calling someone an egomaniac (regardless of its truth) is not helpful.

What would be helpful is analysis that puts this race in context — what are the competing visions and what are the pros and cons of each?  What are the unintended consequences of these perspectives? How will those consequences be mitigated or at least addressed?

A few more thoughts:

  • Mr. Trump is not a conservative, nor a Republican. He is a Trumpian.
  • Secretary Clinton should be held to account over the email situation, and the Benghazi explanation (video versus terror attack.)  Democrats should be careful what they wish for.
  • Republican candidates should stop treating Trump as a serious candidate. But they should listen to people who are afraid and angry and convince them that those emotions are unsuitable as a platform for governing.  Most of the candidates have articulated specific platforms and proposals that are worthy of discussion and coverage (again, regardless of political orientation, there is serious information available for debate.)
  • Mr. Sanders should be asked to describe the impact of a large tax increase (for free college? How will making more graduates result in greater economic activity instead of merely devaluing the bachelor’s degree?) What about keeping the corporate rate where it is versus making it higher versus raising the individual rate. What does history tell us? How might that record apply to that decision?
  •  Candidates should not be included in TV debates based on polls. Devote as much time as required to hear from all of them — carry on CSPAN, and air without advertising. Have a conservative and a liberal interview each candidate together (Rachel Maddow and Megyn Kelly; George Will and Chris Matthews) — post the live feed and raw footage to YouTube.

 

 

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