“Politics is too divisive.”
“Democrats can’t talk to Republicans.”
“Reasoned debate and discussion is dead.”
”Political debate is toxic.”
These are common themes today, and any quick survey of the news media in America – from MSNBC to Fox News, Wall Street Journal to The Nation – and it’s not hard to see how these interpretations have become accepted wisdom. This is not to say that political discourse is more divisive now than it has ever been (it’s really not), but it’s true that Washington, D.C., atmosphere appears to be toxic if you just consume news media.
Yesterday, however, there was a rare moment of calm debate and discussion. It appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show – which, I must say, is possibly the best news show on television – when Maddow interviewed Rick Santorum’s senior campaign strategist, John Brabender. The discussion was calm. Maddow allowed Brabender to finish his sentences, didn’t steam-roller him, and responded professionally and politely. They accepted their differences. I think Maddow made a lot of excellent points (Brabender was unable to respond convincingly to Maddow’s questions about Santorum’s claims about California university’s not teaching American history and, most importantly, the Netherland’s euthanasia laws and statistics). It’s time for America’s news media to pay attention to and emulate Rachel Maddow’s approach and style of interviewing. [Lawrence O’Donnell and Ed Schultz, in particular, could do with taking inspiration from her example…]