Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Republican problem

Weekend read is clearly this rare departure from the usual "both sides do it" format. Our Mr. Hiatt allowed Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, of Brookings and AEI respectively, to tell the world, straight out loud, the root of our broken government lies with the Republican Party.

The opener is being widely and deservedly excerpted:
The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.
However, like Think Progress, I thought the pair's advice to media at the end was equally important and deserves much more attention.
We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.

Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?

Also, stop lending legitimacy to Senate filibusters by treating a 60-vote hurdle as routine. The framers certainly didn’t intend it to be. Report individual senators’ abusive use of holds and identify every time the minority party uses a filibuster to kill a bill or nomination with majority support.
The last point is especially critical. The vast majority of the electorate doesn't understand how the system in the Senate works and a 60 vote majority has become an accepted norm because the media doesn't tell them what a vast break of precedent this tactic is every single time the GOP blocks an up or down vote. Instead they report it as an ordinary victory or defeat.

If the media changed nothing else in the new stenographic format for journalism, changing this would go a long way towards informing the narrative. Not that I'm holding my breath waiting for them to embrace it.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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