Thoughts On Humans #9 : The Guardians of Our Democratic Ideals

Rachel Maddow (1973-)

Cable news often misses the real stories.  Since the presidential election of 2016, most media outlets have decided that decency and our institutions aren’t worth fighting for.  A lot can be laid at the feet of the profit motive behind the news, which did not always exist.  Every single day of the current administration would have caused such great alarm if it had been a day in Obama’s presidency.  The media, however, with cars to sell does not act like we are in the existential crisis we are currently in.  Our democratic systems were usurped.  This administration is not legitimate, and I do not need to try and understand those who support it.  I do not need to hear stories about how threatened rural people feel and how they felt left behind by having a black president, and I don’t need to pretend that we aren’t just talking about racism.  With the exception of a few who are doing increasingly well, Americans are overwhelmingly doing worse today than in previous decades.  But if one watches corporate media, including now our locally owned and nationally dictated news stations, it would be hard to hear that message.  It’s so tempting for these news stations and news programs to dedicate equal time when it seems there are two arguments.  Climate change science is a perfect example that illustrates the problem.  97% of scientists agree that manmade climate change is actually happening, but because there exist two sides of the argument, news outlets for the past few decades have divided the time equally between the 3% and the 97%, despite the actual inequality they are creating with the argument.

We live in a society that is overwhelmingly tolerate and wonderful.  The vast majority of people want a better world not only for themselves, but for everyone.  Deep down, people are good.  But that message gets muddied when those who are intolerant and hateful receive equal time, legitimizing bigotry and anger.  These people even have an entertainment news channel of their own, and more insidiously a network of local channels spreading fear and hate.  But if one watches other networks, those people are framed as the other side of the coin.  They are referred to broadly as the right, the counterargument to progressives in America.  The trouble with that assessment is that this equivalency creates an inequality in messaging.  These people are not what I refer to as “principled conservatives,” a group that offers an actual counterbalance.  What happens is that “conservatism” seems much bigger than it is.  It might be that roughly half of Americans fall into the conservative category, but extreme right-wingers are also framed as if they are conservatives, making it seem like progressives are a minority because there do not exist the same divisions.  In reality, there are many more divisions in the Democratic Party, but that is actually one of its strengths.  It’s a big tent party that attempts to lift everyone up so we can all benefit.  And it is everyone.  Republicans and the far-right do not get left out.

Most news outlets are guilty of this framing.  It’s a particular problem for those who see themselves are straight reporters who have an obligation to truth.  It’s more understandable for opinion shows to have a bias, but even those have fallen into this trap.  So often, panels are put together to try and reflect the spectrum of politics in America.  But instead of things being split between all sorts of conservative people and all sorts of progressive people, principled conservatives and the extreme right are both given a place on the panel, limiting the progressive presence to 1/3.  Rachel Maddow is one of the exceptions.

Rachel Maddow’s show is usually seen as one of the opinion shows, but that doesn’t really accurately describe what it is that she is doing on her show.  Her opinion on the stories she covers are sometimes a part of her show, but The Rachel Maddow Show is really a deep-dive into one of the stories that we as a country should be talking about.  That doesn’t mean that Rachel covers everything that we need to be aware of, but she does a much better job than many of her peers.  She hasn’t been afraid to cover the Flint water crisis, the shootings of unarmed black men, or the current administration’s close ties to the Russian government.  We need more shows like hers to speak truth to power; it really makes this country better.

Catch Rachel Maddow on her show on MSNBC every weekday.

Stephanie Miller (1961-)

Stephanie Miller keeps things clear for me.  I discovered her show in 2015.  While she keeps me laughing everyday, she also is a great person at reminding us all that we have to keep our heads in the game and stick together.  It’s easy to get tired of politics and to start blaming allies when things don’t go well.  It’s nice to wake up to the message that we shouldn’t lose heart.  She’s smart, she’s quick, and she is not terribly interested in the nonsense of the extreme right.  She also has the best guests, particularly her regular guests.  I am so glad that through Stephanie Miller and The Stephanie Miller Show I have discovered John Fugelsang, Frangela, The Rude Pundit, Monique Marvez, Bob Cesca, Suzanne Westenhoefer, Malcolm Nance, Eric Boehlert, and others.

I’m glad people like Stephanie Miller are out there right now.  It’s hard to stay positive in a country that increasingly doesn’t look familiar.  It’s nice to have someone who approaches everything with unapologetic humor.

Listen to The Stephanie Miller Show every morning on Progressive Voices on Tune In radio.