I spent a chunk of the weekend meditating on why I’m finding the political news shows — even the ones I usually like — so excruciatingly painful these days. That took me back to the reasons I started blogging to begin with: the media’s distorted definition of news, which so often makes it lose perspective — and encourages us to lose our perspective as well.
By definition, news has to be new: It’s all about what just happened that is different from what was happening yesterday, or five minutes ago. Political campaigns seldom change at that pace, so the news about them is almost always ephemeral: Somebody insulted somebody, who insulted them back. A poll came out. That poll indicates that some candidate’s strategy will have to change in ways that we can now speculate about. (Tomorrow, a new poll will show that yesterday’s poll was a statistical anomaly. Never mind, then.)
If you get in the habit of focusing on such stuff, all the important questions vanish: What serious challenges is the country facing, or likely to face in the near future? In what ways does our government’s approach to those challenges need to change or stay the same? How does that match up with what the various candidates want to do, or seem capable of doing?
This week, you could easily have watched entire hour-long political shows without learning anything about those questions. You might come away from such a show all wrought up about whether or not it’s appropriate for Bernie Sanders to debate Donald Trump, when it should have been obvious from the beginning that the Sanders/Trump debate was never going to happen. And if it did, so what?
It’s been that way for some while. The political news is the soap opera of candidates, not the education that citizens need to make their decisions, or even (if you know who you support already) to learn how to educate other citizens. It’s not about the country, it’s about the candidates.
So I decided to refocus. The weekly summary will, as usual, contain a lot of candidates news, because that’s what everybody is talking about. But the featured post is “The Election Is About the Country, Not the Candidates”. In it, I try to get back to the challenges the country faces, and then look at the candidates through that lens.
That post still needs work, so you should expect it around 10 EDT. The summary should be out around noon.