Fareed Zakaria Plays the 'Both Sides are Equally Polarizing' Game
CNN's Fareed Zakaria apparently felt the need to give some cover to the Republican rebranding effort called the "tea party" by not mentioning the fact that they're just the extreme right wing of the Republican Party -- and they are Republicans. There is no "tea party" during his opening segment on CNN's GPS. Zakaria decried the level of partisanship in our government right now causing us problems, with another dose of the typical Villager "both sides are the same with catering to their base" nonsense.
Not surprisingly, Zakaria was not able to name a single example of anyone who is extreme on either side besides these right wingers who have forgotten that for government to function, there does actually have to be some level of compromise, whether any of us like it or not.
What was sadly lacking here is any recognition of just how far our politicians in both parties have moved to the right and how we've got a real problem with lack of representation for everyday working Americans with our bought-and-sold politicians. Our larger problem with our political system is not redistricting and safe seats in Congress as much as it is the media and Zakaria's buddies who do a terrible job of informing the voters on just how terribly their representatives are doing with looking out for special interests, and not their interests. That and the need to get the money out of politics so the have-mores are not continually corrupting the system, as they are now.
So-called "left wing" ideas about preserving our social safety nets, asking the rich to pay their share and wanting us to quit rewarding companies for outsourcing jobs overseas are not extreme positions. They're completely in line with that the majority of Americans believe and with what the progressive caucus in our House believes. And those ideas are not polarizing. What is polarizing are the social issues that the right loves to run on and what Republicans use to win the majority of their elections -- guns, god and gays.
And the other unmentioned problem with "both sides" by Zakaria is that "both sides" unfortunately have to raise way too much money to run for political office. And that "both sides" end up spending that money for advertising on networks like his in order to get elected -- and people like Zakaria and his cohorts are never going to speak out against it since that would mean a great deal of their revenues dry up.
Apparently it's just much easier to just go after Congressional gerrymandering and false equivalencies on how both sides' bases are supposedly extreme in their beliefs instead as a source of our problems as Zakaria did here.
Transcript below the fold.
ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take.
Watching the extraordinary polarization in Washington today, many people have pointed the finger at the Tea Party. It's ideologically extreme, refuses to compromise, and cares more about purity than problem solving.
I happen to agree with much of that critique, but it doesn't really answer the question, why has the Tea Party become so prominent? Why is it able to dominate Washington?
We've had plenty of ideologically charged movements come to Washington before. Think of Barry Goldwater or George McGovern. But once in Washington, the system encouraged compromise and governance.
But, over the last few decades, what has changed are the rules organizing American politics, and they now encourage small interest groups, including ideologically charged ones, to capture major political parties as well as Congress itself. Call it political narrow casting.
Here are some examples. Redistricting has created safe seats so that for most House members, their only concern is a challenge from the right for Republicans and the left for Democrats. The incentive is to pander to the base, not the center.
Party primaries have been taken over by small groups of activists who push even popular senators to extreme positions. In Utah, for example, 3,500 conservative activists managed to take the well- regarded Senator Robert Bennett off the ballot. GOP senators like Orrin Hatch and John McCain have moved farther to the right, hoping to stave off similar assaults.
Changes in Congressional rules have also made it far more difficult to enact large, compromised legislation. In the wake of the Watergate Scandal, sunshine rules were put into place that required open committee meetings and recorded votes. The purpose was to make Congress more open, more responsive, and so it has become to lobbyists, money and special interests, because they're the people who watch every committee vote and mobilize our position to any withdrawal of subsidies or tax breaks.
Political polarization has been fueled by a new media, which is also narrow cast. Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, gave an interview to the "Wall Street Journal" in which he suggested that he might further the conservative agenda through an occasional compromise. That provoked a tirade from Rush Limbaugh, which then produced a torrent of angry e-mails and phone calls to Issa's office. Issa quickly and publicly apologized to Limbaugh and promised only opposition to Obama. Multiply that example a thousand fold, and you have the daily dynamic of Congress.
It's depressing, but the fact that our politics are the result of these structural shifts means they can be changed. Mickey Edwards, a Republican and former House member from Oklahoma, has a highly intelligent essay in "Atlantic" magazine suggesting a series of reforms that could make a difference. Some of them are large scale, others are seemingly small but crucial changes in Congressional procedure. The essay is on or website. Read it.
Some political scientists long hoped that American parties would become more ideologically pure and coherent, like European parties. They seem to have gotten their wish, and the result is abysmal.
Here's why. America does not have a parliamentary system like Europe's, in which one party takes control of all levers of political power, executive and legislative, enacts its agenda, then goes back to the voters. Power in the United States is shared by a set of institutions with overlapping authorities - Congress, the presidency. People have to cooperate for the system to work.
The Tea Party venerates the Founding Fathers. It should note that the one thing on which they all agreed was that adversarial political parties were bad for the American republic.
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