FRIDAY, AUGUST 26, 2016
But first, these observations: We'll be on hiatus a few more days as we resolve our post-thunderclap connectivity and equipment replacement problems. But first:
Yesterday, we spent three hours in a workshop with an array of federal managers. This led us to move about the parlous partisan state into which the nation has fallen.
To what extent has our basic functioning broken down? Let's run through the three branches of government:
Due to our current dysfunctional state, the Supreme Court is operating with only eight members. There is no way to break a tie in the event of a 4-4 vote. Nor is there any assurance that there will ever be a ninth member.
It's a very peculiar state of affairs. That said, consider the current state of the Congress, the body which is failing to act on the nomination of a possible ninth Justice:
The Congress is in such a divided partisan state that it's virtually impossible to pass any legislation. This didn't start in the Obama years. It dates at least to the government shutdowns of the first Clinton term and to the subsequent stream of temporary "continuing resolutions" which were need to keep the government functioning.
Presumably, someone will be elected president in November. That said, will that person be able to pass any legislation next year? Evidence suggests that our current state of partisan breakdown makes that an unlikely prospect.
Finally, consider the status of that new president. Alas! The current state of our partisan breakdown means that the two major party nominees carry the highest "unfavorable" ratings of any nominees in modern history.
Whoever ends up in the White House, that person will be widely loathed. For better or worse, all parts of our federal government seem to be in highly unusual states of breakdown.
What explains this state of affairs? Yesterday, we suggested two basic ways in which the press corps has helped fuel this breakdown.
First, the rise of partisan news orgs of the left and the right has flooded the discourse with disinformation and misinformation. Also, with steady streams of messaging designed to make liberals and conservatives fully loathe each other.
If we might borrow from CSNY: Loathe the others well!
This sort of behavior from partisan orgs has fueled the types of division mentioned above. Meanwhile, our big mainstream legacy news orgs have persistently failed to challenge the conduct of such partisan players and orgs. Misinformation and deliberate confusion are routinely ignored—ignored and permitted to stand.
For the last ten years, we've been begging our big mainstream orgs to accept a basic principle: When major players mislead or misinform millions of people, that is in itself a news event, a news event which should be addressed in front page news reporting.
Over the past several decades, our big news orgs have largely ducked this role. In just this past week, the New York Times has finally begun to break out of this mold, challenging some misinformation being sold by Sean Hannity.
Such action is long overdue. That said, we don't expect to see such work done on a regular basis. Meanwhile, the skill level of our big mainstream orgs is often extremely low.
More and more, we resemble a failing banana republic. Players of the left and the right have happily driven this downward cycle. When will big news orgs, and us the people, finally say that the joy of loathing The Other must be subjected to a full frontal challenge?
We offer those thoughts as we start to address our post-thunderclap issues. As a nation, we've managed to achieve a clownishly dysfunctional state of affairs. Gloomily, we offer these thoughts:
Our skills at addressing this problem are few. Beyond that, the spirit seems weak.
Our mainstreamers tend to play along with disinformation and confusion pretty much as they find it. They tend to avoid rocking powerful boats. If you doubt that, listen to any mainstream pundit discussion.
Go ahead! Start with discussions on NPR, as we just (depressingly) did. Then branch out from there!
One final point: We liberals may instinctively claim it's all being done by Them, Over There. In that instinctive claim, we'll be counterproductive and wrong.
Example: We think Paul Krugman is right today. After that, we think he goes wrong!