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writing for godot

Definitely Not the Last Word

Written by Paul mcconnell   
Tuesday, 14 January 2020 02:43


As I write this, the College Football National Championship is underway on ESPN, and in protest to the fact that The Donald and Melania were trotted out onto the field right before the national anthem, I clicked away to MSNBC for refuge.

Ultimately what I found there was no less discouraging.

The day before the Iowa Democratic presidential debate, probably the most important debate for candidates to differentiate themselves and deliver their final appeals to Iowa voters on what is basically the eve of their caucus, Lawrence O’Donnell, a talking head celebrity that covers news and issues political commentary for the so-called progressive, or left-leaning MSNBC network, declared that the remaining democratic debaters were wasting their time talking about an issue like health care because there is no substantial difference between the candidates on what they could hope to achieve in terms of reforming the American Health Care system. To put it bluntly, he opened his segment with a statement that is completely at odds with the concerns of the American electorate. In other words, Lawrence O’Donnell, as a representative of the corporate media, despite months-long polling to the contrary, and in opposition to the will of the American people, has decided to wage an information war against those issues, in order to marginalize the candidates who actually speak to those issues substantively, rather than eschewing statements and policy that maintains the status quo. We all know who we are talking about here.

With one blithe and idiotic statement, Lawrence O’Donnell, one of our high priests of respectable and erstwhile progressive journalism, made it his business to skewer one of the issues Americans are most concerned about in poll after poll and basically say it was a waste of time for the candidates to discuss. Why, I wonder, would he step over the momentum that has been generated on the issue and declare that the issue is flat-lining across the democratic field? Could it be that he, as a well-heeled representative of the corporate media establishment, is trying to minimize public opinion and squelch debate? Why I wonder would a television news journalist take such an odd swing at an issue that is so important to American voters and at such a time as this, the night before a debate and a few weeks out from the Iowa Caucus?

We don’t really have to answer that question to know.

For the record, here’s what he said in his opening:

….and on the eve of the next democratic Presidential debate, at the end of this hour, I’ll tell you what to expect in tomorrow nights debate and explain why it will be as unsatisfying as these debates so frequently are and the problem is not really the candidates but the questions that completely ignore reality especially when it comes to what has been the most contentious issue in the debates….Healthcare. Because the political truth is there is no real difference among the democratic candidates in what they would actually be able to do about healthcare when they become President. And that became very very clear on this program when one of the leading presidential candidates said one simple sentence about healthcare and its the only sentence that you have to hear in the healthcare debate and you probably will not hear it tomorrow night but you will hear it at the end of this hour…..

Whereupon he launched into an hour long rehash of Trump-Russia-Ukraine-Impeachment-Hacking speculation.

When I officially tuned back in at the end of the hour, on the edge of my seat, eager for the only sentence I would ever need to hear again about the healthcare debate, at the only moment in history I would be likely to hear it, he left us with not one sentence exactly, but rather an assault on the tradition of public debate between Presidential candidates by insisting that because presidential powers are limited to the veto and that Presidents are entirely beholden to the whims and legislative offerings of the House and Senate, there is no real reason to debate many of the issues they have been covering.

“Legislative hopes and dreams” he called them, in the broad terms of what candidates are debating across the board. And by extension, since Nancy Pelosi and establishment Dems don’t like Medicare for all, or taxes for the uber-wealthy, or Green New Deals and so on and so forth, then they will never become policy because the people be damned, Congress knows best and the President’s hands are tied. (Not only is he saying that it’s useless for the President to propose reforms but he is unwittingly justifying the Republican obstructionism during the 8 years of Obama).

It’s an odd way for the Free Press to report the news in a Democracy by saying the voice of the people will not be heard because the voice of the people and their potential leaders are not, and should not be, part of the process.

Since when don’t Presidential platforms and administrations drive policy? Ever heard of Obamacare? The fact that we’re even talking about Medicare For All in this country four years after it was a fringe issue on a left-wing candidates platform disproves this notion.

If I didn’t know better I’d say Trump and the Russians have undermined our faith in Democracy and made us cynical.

And if I didn’t know better I’d say the corporate media is worried that their cash cow Trump (after all, corporate media ratings are up by 70 percent in the Trump era) is on his way out.

There’s been a lot of damage to Democracy in a few short years and I guess I shouldn’t blame Lawrence, Rachel, et al for getting it wrong night after night as they completely ignore the progressive groundswell at the expense of America and jump at any chance to crush the momentum progressives have created and level the field wherever they can, not by unbiased, equal coverage, but by skewing MSNBC’s programs heavily in the direction of maintaining the status quo, at whatever the cost. They are, after all, beholden to forces that loom larger.

But what I can’t understand is how a candidate’s platform can be construed as meaningless because of a reluctant congress and a complacent media? That’s a bit like saying, we have a democracy but it doesn’t really work the way you think it does because its not made for you. Is that the lead story our news wants us to take away about our dysfunctional democracy? Really? That open debate is pointless because things will stay the same? Moreover, is that the energy we should take to the polls at this time of democratic and planetary peril?

I choose to think that at this point in our history, and certainly more so than at any time in my 54 years on the planet, we the people loom larger and have a better chance to speak truth to power than we’ve ever had, and the reasons for this are the very debates that are taking place in this country about those very issues the candidates will and should be discussing. We are at a pivotal crossroads, and I for one have waited my whole adult voting life for this moment. I take offense when a news actor (and that’s not a typo) tells me the issues aren’t important and that all the candidates in front of me are the same thereby insinuating the status quo is our best bet.

I say to you Lawrence O’Donnell that you are not qualified to deliver and analyze the news because you are an un-differentiating delivery boy that has squandered his reputation for ratings. Maybe you and others of your ilk should check your cynicism and stay out of the discussion when it comes to the “legislative hopes and dreams” that would dare to lead the country and the world on a better path forward. your social media marketing partner
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