Partisanship, served American-style

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I. Obama’s too moderate; Romney- too wishy-washy; CNN describes the Republican presidential nomination process as “slow burning.” More recently: moderate Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine is not seeking re-election. She joins a list that includes Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, and Evan Bayh. Moderatism is a problem, but so is partisanship. What’s really going on here?
There are two sides to the equation: 1.) Politicians are too moderate, and are unwilling to take a stand. 2.) American government is too partisan, both sides are driven by ideology, and this is the reason why nothing gets accomplished in Washington (note the assumption of the media: “nothing gets accomplished”). Obama was supposed to be the solution for problem #2, but he ended up being problem no.1.

II. Fox, HuffPo, NYT and CNN, which is which? Go:
1. “How partisan politics drove Olympia Snowe away”
2. “Snowe’s Exit Casts Spotlight on Divided Senate”
3. “Senator Olympia Snowe’s Latest Hard Choice – To Quit”
4. “[Name of analyst]: What Olympia Snowe and the Media Get Wrong About Polarization in American Politics”
The general narrative offered by mainstream media is: “Look, this moderate, level-headed politician is leaving because everyone else is too partisan.” (Perhaps an attempt to explain why Obama didn’t work out like we thought he would?) Then there are several variations on this narrative:
1. [no variation]
2. The institution of government isn’t working as it should
3. She is too moderate; there are too many moderates
4. She isn’t level-headed or moderate; the right is responsible for all partisanship
Politicians = too moderate. Politics = too partisan. Again, what’s going on here? What does the media want us to know? The above interpretations have an interesting implication: “Who do we blame for her departure?”
1. People within the government, and not the Senator
2. Institution of government is fine, but “politics” (partisanship) is the problem
3. The Senator, and not people within the government
4. The extreme right; the Senator was a conservative in moderate’s clothing (thus, she is implicated)
I have yet to resolve the question “what’s going on here?” So I’ll open it up to discussion. Go.

1. http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/02/opinion/avlon-snowe-partisanship/index.html?iref=allsearch
2. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/03/01/snowes-exit-casts-spotlight-on-divided-senate/
3. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/01/us/after-many-tough-choices-the-choice-to-quit.html?_r=1&scp=6&sq=olympia%20snowe&st=cse
4. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-weiler/olympia-snowe-common-ground_b_1312757.html
 

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an idea in motion.

11 Responses to Partisanship, served American-style

  1. DataShade says:

    what is this I don’t even

  2. DataShade says:

    Seriously, I’ve read this three times, and I’m not sure what you’re trying to say. I’m sensing some irony/sarcasm but I can’t tell when it’s on and when it’s off or if it’s just my bias and there’s none intended at all.

    I also can’t wrap my head around the idea that there are real, living people who don’t work for beltway media organizations who think Joe Lieberman is a moderate, but that’s not relevant to the question:
    “What’s going on here?”

    Well … which “what?” Which “here?”

  3. Guy Fox says:

    How odd to see ‘moderate’ get transformed into ‘moderatism’, as if it were an identifiable ideology of its own? It always seemed like the point of moderation was to be between extremes, i.e. not ultra-this, not ultra-that, but without any independent content. Now it’s suddenly a thing in itself, it would seem.

    As for what that means, I reckon it’s just further evidence that how the labels relate to each other is more important than what any of them actually stand for. Sorry to hear that. My recommendation: emigrate.

    • donk says:

      It’s not much to say moderate(ism) has been transformed as a term, since (like many isms in the Western political hodgepodge) it was never really anything in the first place. What defines a “Moderate”? What does it even mean to be “not ultra-this, not ultra-that” in a political context?

      The Moderate brand can and has been deployed to promote any assortment of political jellybeans. Social reformer but tough on crime, a bit hawkish but advocating universal health care, pro-life but against the death penalty, anti-Iraq but pro-Afghanistan. Moderate has never really connoted moderate positions, just a moderate spectrum of positions taken as an average.

      I suppose the word should more rightly be used to describe the dominant ideology of Western politicians today, who value compromise above all else—I just don’t ever hear it used that way.

      • Guy Fox says:

        What does it even mean to be “not ultra-this, not ultra-that” in a political context?

        Exactly. Moderate is a relational term, like ‘more’ or ‘less’. It only has meaning when it’s applied to something. Making ‘moderatism’ a noun, separate from any other, assumes meaning is there, when it can’t really be.

        the dominant ideology of Western politicians today, is to get (re-)elected, no more, no less. N.B. this doesn’t automatically make them believers or practitioners in democracy.

  4. V.V. says:

    Why is it important to find someone to blame? What good does it do? It’s all just a bunch of blab offered by for-profit companies that want to keep people focused on them. There is nothing wrong with profit or corporations, but really, the news for them is a way to keep people’s attention between the commercials. Paying attention to them gives them status. Senator Snow is 65 years old, another term would put her at 71. Maybe she wants a life.

  5. HP says:

    You lost me at “Obama is too moderate”.

    • boeotarch says:

      Hopefully this doesn’t turn into a disastrous, ugly tangent, but… Obama scored a huge national victory running on a far-left platform and he’s ended up governing more like a mid-90′s Republican, sans homophobia. You may not see him as too moderate, but plenty of Democrats do.

      • JohnJ says:

        Every party sees their candidates as the epitome of moderation (which, unsurprisingly, most people use to mean “reasonable”). Republicans complained about Bush being too moderate. It doesn’t prove anything except that people are very bad judges of what constitutes moderation and extremism.

  6. JWF says:

    Reading this over again and reading the comments (thank you!), I can see that it is not very clear. My mind was in a bit of a frenzy at the time of writing. Basically, I think that what I wanted to do here was show what each media outlet’s coverage reveals about their assumptions. These assumptions, of course, relate back to branding and identity. The senator’s departure is an interesting case study for revealing underlying media bias because each outlet had something to say about responsibility. Some attribute it to a fail of the individual, some to a fail of the institution. In these articles, we can see what each outlet values, and how this reflects contemporary American political culture.

  7. JWF says:

    An accidental stumble through the archives has revealed that there is already an answer to my haphazardly-posed question (“what’s going on here?”).

    “By affirming the two party system and advocating a bipartisan middle-ground approach, they give each party the incentive to stake out a more extreme position in the hope that the “adult” moderate position will be a compromise favoring the most unreasonable party.”

    http://partialobjects.com/2011/09/the-%E2%80%9Cno-labels%E2%80%9D-label/

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