Disorganized Dems? Or Democracy In Action?

Bill Scher

Crossfire from his own party! Key Democrats blast Obama stimulus plan! Political wrangling bogs down economic stimulus plan! At odds! Doubts arise!

Such is the traditional media interpretation of the policy deliberations going on between the incoming Obama administration and members of Congress.

But read deeper into the stories and you don’t find evidence of explosive hostility or deep conflict. There is civil debate and discussion, not “crossfire.” There is desire to modify aspects of Obama’s plan, but not its overarching thrust. Congress is still expected to pass legislation within a month of Obama’s swearing-in, which is not exactly getting bogged down, but moving pretty swiftly.

This is the real media bias, a bias towards conflict, which leads towards sensationalism instead of clear-eyed analysis.

On this week’s edition of my LiberalOasis Radio Show (which airs Saturdays on WHMP in Western MA), I cautioned against buying into the media’s conflict bias. Those of you who like to watch your radio, here’s the clip:

The slightest hint of policy disagreement allows the traditional media to revert into the comfortable narrative: Those Disorganized Dems!

And the heightened sense of conflict can make constructive criticism harder to convey and productive discussion difficult.

But hopefully what is actually going on is not Keystone Kop chaos, but healthy democracy in action.

Instead of one-party rule undermining checks and balances and stifling discussion, we may well be seeing how — when a progressive mandate for action points everyone in the right direction — a President, a Congress and their constituents can engage in calm debate to refine proposals while still acting in timely fashion.

Granted, it’s never wise to assume a best-case scenario. I would urge you again to contact Congress and demand swift passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan to the keep pressure on for timely action. And I encourage anyone to express concern about any aspect of the plan one thinks could use improvement.

But know that the media is invested in assuming worst-case scenarios, because breathy conflict is more likely to grab attention than dispassionate analysis.

And don’t let those headlines make us get caught up in phony narratives and lose focus on the substantive policy issues that really matter.

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