President Obama just sat down for a wide-ranging interview with The New Republic. In the course of the discussion he articulated what is a long-standing problem for Republican politicians that prevents them from engaging in reasonable legislative compromises. The President said…
“One of the biggest factors is going to be how the media shapes debates. If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you’ll see more of them doing it.”
That is an astute observation. Many Republicans live in fear of being criticized in the conservative media. They regard people like Roger Ailes and Rush Limbaugh as Godfathers whose rings must be kissed. And divergence from the doctrine prescribed by the most extreme elements of the far-right can land them in primary trouble with Tea Partiers. The President also recognized that dilemma:
“The House Republican majority is made up mostly of members who are in sharply gerrymandered districts that are very safely Republican and may not feel compelled to pay attention to broad-based public opinion, because what they’re really concerned about is the opinions of their specific Republican constituencies.”
The result of having to cater to perpetually outraged absolutists on the right is that GOP attention whores will do or say anything that gets them more airtime. And the media is all too happy to accommodate them. Obama addressed that journalistic failing as well.
“Nobody gets on TV saying, ‘I agree with my colleague from the other party.’ People get on TV for calling each other names and saying the most outlandish things.”
That’s a theory that has been proven many times over by folks like Glenn Beck, Allen West, Donald Trump, and a menagerie of other bombastic loudmouths.
The interview is well worth reading in its entirety, however, the observations about the press and anxiety-driven Republicans are a refreshing blast of realistic insight. It is important for these truths to be articulated by the President. Now it remains to be seen if Obama will apply that insight to his actions when dealing with those in the media and the Republican Party who engage in kneejerk opposition to anything proposed by the White House or Democrats in congress. Because, as the President noted in the interview…
“Until Republicans feel that there’s a real price to pay for them just saying no and being obstructionist, you’ll probably see at least a number of them arguing that we should keep on doing it.”
Exactly! Make them pay the price. And the price is the respect and support of the American people who are sick and tired of the games played by Washington’s opportunists.