On the subject of the media encouraging the choosing of sides in the NFL negotiations, I’ve long wondered what role the transmission of the news plays into politics and the general zeitgeist of the American public. Though hardly a new phenomenon, it seems much of the public (especially the ones who affiliate with the right wing) will vote/support causes against their own interests. This certainly has manifested itself in two recent political debates: the union protests in Wisconsin and the Affordable Care Act (Healthcare Bill).
Though I haven’t been alive for hundreds of years, the current American political climate shows that we have never been more divided as a country. It seems that if the Democratic members of the House and/or Senate voted for the appreciation of sunny days, Republican leadership would be in lockstep opposition with rhetoric regarding the dangers of skin cancer. In fact, the healthcare bill they so desperately despise and want to repeal doesn’t look all that dissimilar from the one they proposed in 1994 or the one Mitt Romney implemented in Massachusetts when he was Governor (which is still popular to this day). And media outlets have followed suit as FoxNews has cornered the market on conservative talk while MSNBC has become a liberal hub with their nighttime programming. With 24/7 news coverage, and the constant chatter of who is right and wrong, these media outlets, along with the many talking heads who the media then quotes (think Palin) have stood their ground and deepened the political divide. But how has this effect public opinion?
Let’s face it, the majority of the general public does not follow politics closely, and especially does not understand much about the healthcare law. This may be all well and good, save for the fact that this same majority has strong political opinions, and these generally follow the party line. The genesis of their political affiliation may come from their parents, neighborhood, racial and religious issues (who knows), but regardless of what the opinion of the political party is, the public defaults to whatever their party believes, which is exacerbated by modern media.
For example, the healthcare bill, according to polls, remains fairly unpopular, but when individual parts of the healthcare bill are polled, they actually poll really well. Why? Well, simply put, most people have no fucking clue what’s in the bill, but if they support the Republican Party, they hear the party line that the whole thing is bad. Plus, Americans don’t like conflict in government. Polls have shown that if both parties agree on a bill, the bill is popular and I have no doubt that if Republicans supported the healthcare bill, majority of the nation would follow suit even though not one single piece of the policy will have changed.
The Wisconsin union protests suffer from the same phenomenon. It’s incredible how many poor, small towns are against unions even though the existence of unions would help these people most. The sole purpose of a union is to create a balance with the powers that employ them to ensure fair pay and basic rights. Without unions, and I’ve personally been victim of this, the employers can play with your wages and healthcare as they see fit by declaring they are “losing money” or whatever the excuse may be in the name of profit. This is not to say a union can’t spin out of control with unreasonable demands, but it shouldn’t demonize the idea of a union as a whole.
But conservative leadership, and especially the conservative media, seems to have made “union” a curse word, much in the same way they have made the word “liberal” or “socialist” one. So when the Republican base hears these words, their visceral reaction is to be against it, even if the only reason they are Republican in the first place is because they don’t want gays to marry or they are pro-life (and have no economic opinion period). But the media has also done a disservice by demonizing pretty much everything the opposite party does. For example, today President Obama publicly filled out his NCAA bracket on ESPN and, of course, Republican media questioned if this was distracting him from the important issues of the day. To be fair, left wing media did the same to Bush during his tenure.
But the result of this is that any disagreement the two parties have moves quickly to the extremes. It seems that any Obama supported legislation is immediately viewed as “socialist” with the promise that he’ll knock on your door to take your guns. How can we have productive discourse when the media consistently widens the divide? The answer is, we can’t. And it’s absolutely killing this country.