Mainstream Media Failure Covering US Political Dysfunction

Moyers mann & Ornstein  1In this incisive analysis, Dan Froomkin, Executive Editor of the Center for Accountability Journalism, explains how the mainstream American media are failing to accurately explain an important driving force behind the current government shutdown and looming failure to raise the debt ceiling that was explained in detail more than a year ago by esteemed political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein in their book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks”.

That driving force is the Republican Party which has become an “insurgent outlier” in the American political system of checks and balances – a system designed and intended to function on compromise. While most news accounts describe the extreme unwillingness of a critical caucus of conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives to compromise on major budget and deficit issues, the media continue to frame the growing level of political dysfunction as something both political parties are equally responsible for.  As Mann and Ornstein have long argued, nothing could be further from the truth.

In an interview with Bill Moyers on PBS in April, Mann explained:

Sadly, divided party government, which we have because of the Republican House, in a time of extreme partisan polarization, is a formula for inaction and absolutist opposition politics, not for problem solving.    . . . Republicans are unified in their oppositions, or beholden to a “no new tax” pledge that really keeps the country, the Congress, and its political system from dealing honestly and seriously with the problems we face.


They also explained to Moyers why the main stream media has continued to completely ignore an op-ed piece which summarized their analysis in the Washington Post published a year earlier, “Let’s Just Say It: The Republicans are the Problem”  that received more than five thousand comments within days.

Commercially driven news media thrive on conflict and reflexively cite opposing views, even if they are not equivalent. Only non-commercial public media outlets such as NPR, PBS, C-SPAN and Pacifica Radio have seriously discussed what Mann and Ornstein have been saying about the evolution of the Republican party over several decades in adopting radical, uncompromising positions in a “new and enhanced politics of hostage taking, putting political expedience above the national interest and tribal hubris above cooperative problem solving.”

That the United States has one of the weakest, grossly underfunded public media systems of the fully industrialized democracies in the world will perhaps gain greater attention as the current political dysfunction unfolds, one of many topics to be discussed Oct 18 – 19 at the Rules Change conference in Washington, DC, co-convened by the Media Stewards Project.