Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Steaming Pile of BS

The headline reads "For Democrats, 60 Senators Is Magic Number for Health Bill".

I say bullshit.

Before Teddy Kennedy died, and they had the 60 votes, Senate Democrats never threatened to do anything that would actually warrant a Republican filibuster. They didn't push the limits, they didn't assert their authority as the party elected in a landslide election, they didn't make use of their palpable political capital.

What they said ad nauseum, if you'll recall, was that we must reach across the aisle, make compromises with Republicans, and seek bipartisan solutions. We heard this when the 'magic number' wasn't an aspiration, but a concrete reality resulting from recent elections.

Yet whenever the Democrats fail to do what they were, quite obviously, elected to do, the excuse that they most frequently offer is that they just lack the 'magic' number of seats. "Give us more votes and then we'll really get things rolling".

Reading only the NYTimes, you would come to think by default that if Democrats fail to enact real reforms, it's always due to the meddling of Republicans, teabaggers, talk-radio hosts, or George Bush. Or, perhaps, in slightly more honest moments, it's only due to the Kent Conrads and Max Baucuses. But the idea that the Democratic Party itself, even at its most 'progressive', is an unremittingly preservative (rather than transformative) force in politics never enters the discussion. The idea that our political institutions themselves are deeply flawed, does not get a second thought. And how can it, if the only meaning 'politics' has is defined by the dialectic of lesser evils and a choice between two capitalist parties?

Does anyone really believe that the problem facing health care reform is just that Democrats in the Senate need to get that 'magic number'? When they had the 60 votes a couple weeks ago, the fact that they did not need Republican support whatsoever in the Senate seemed not to be valid topic of discussion. But now that they need at least one GOP blowhard to join their 'cause', it's all about getting that magic 60.

The opportunity to reemploy the facile "democrat vs. republican" frame of understanding is too irresistible, it seems, for mainstream media... because things start to get complicated when you have to explain how a party, elected in a landslide, that campaigned on sweeping change and health reform (in particular), can fail so miserably to enact even the most modest reforms when there's no electoral opposition standing in its way.

Talking about our political institutions as such is too great a task for newspapers. It's far easier to lump political writing in with the style and depth of sports analysis, focusing instead on the eternal struggle between two well-defined 'teams' in a game whose rules themselves are not open to contestation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the comparison to sports coverage you drop at the end. I'd never heard that analogy before, but the Mainstream coverage/ "discussion" of American politics mirrors ESPN and other sports outlets in more ways than you could possibly imagine. Sports outlets rarely ever cover issues outside the arena of players/coaches (owners, labor contracts, tv deals, etc.)and like you said, the rules of the contest between the two parties (teams) are never discussed.