One of the big complaints that independent voters, moderates and centrists have long had about cable news it they often only offer mostly left and right or Democrats and Republicans commentary on issues and events. It’s as if “the center” or those MANY Americans who don’t belong to either party don’t exist.
CNN which has had independent voters panel discussions (I have been on several of them) has now formally rectified that problem on its network: it has hired independent analyst and author John Avlon as a staff commentator — now assuring that its employee roster includes commentators that better reflect the realities of American politics where not only Democrats and Republicans but independent voters play key roles. Here’s part of the official press release as run on TV Newser:
John Avlon, a political columnist who specializes in the analysis of the country’s independent movement, will serve as a CNN political contributor, it was announced today by David Bohrman, CNN senior vice president of Washington programming and bureau chief. Avlon will appear on the full line-up of CNN programming as part of the network’s diverse group of analysts and contributors.
“Elections are won and lost in the center and having a voice like John that understands centrist philosophy is critical for political conversations,” said Bohrman “With CNN’s commitment to go above and beyond the political spin, John will be able to provide necessary perspective and insight to the network’s viewers.”
“I’m honored to join CNN as part of ‘the best political team on television,’” said Avlon. “As an independent voter and a centrist, CNN is the network which best reflects my values. I’ll continue to stand up to the extremes of both sides—while trying to restore a sense of humor and historic perspective to our political debates—in the belief that most Americans want to move our country not left or right, but forward.”
For the past year, Avlon has made regular appearances on CNN, including launching the “Wingnuts of the Week” segment on American Morning. In addition to writing about the independent movement as a senior political columnist for TheDailyBeast.com, Avlon has authored books on the subject, titled Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America. He also served as chief speechwriter and deputy policy director for Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Additionally, Avlon has served as a columnist and associate editor for the New York Sun. Avlon received an MBA from Columbia University, and a B.A. degree from Yale University.
One of the key differences between Avlon and some other contributors and talking heads is this: in some recent reports Avlon would travel and do actual reporting and interviews, versus the more typical role of a talk head on a cable network where panel members will give their opinion and analysis. (Yours truly was on a MSNBC segment as a talking head several years ago and on CNN as part of an independent voter panel several times earlier this year).
Avlon’s writing is further proof to what we’ve often said here: because someone is an independent voter or moderate does not mean not taking a stand and not being passionate about issues, trends or events. Avlon has written some strong posts on The Daily Beast and his CNN Wingnuts segments blasted both sides — with some people on each side (notably Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann) suggesting he’s really a partisan for the other side.
Accusing an independent, centrist or moderate of really being on the other side is the typical attack line used on independents, centrists and moderates when someone disagrees with them and tries to discredit them rather than answer an argument or counter criticism: to some unless you totally agree with them you MUST be working for the other side, dishonest or manipulative. (I tell the story of the local Air America affiliated talk show host who invited me on his show several years ago, asked me questions and then he and his cohost mockingly talked over me when they asked me how anyone can be a moderate — suggesting that since I had worked as a staff reporter for the San Diego Union I was really a Republican since I was not as far left as they were. They were saying things such as “a moderate case of cancer…a moderate car crash…”They didn’t let me talk, talked over me each time I tried to answer and then cut me off and hung up — pehaps symbolic of how American politics in general works these days.)
Avlon will be on Bill Maher’s show tonight. His two books are virtually REQUIRED READING for independents, centrists and moderates. We have the Independent Nation icon as one of the few on the right template of TMV since it is one of the best books ever written about independent voters in terms of style, content, analysis and readability. His new book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America (Amazon icon at the bottom of this post) is a no-holds-barred look at the politics of polarization and demonization, its roots and extremes and is also written in a can’t-put-it-down style but also crammed with solid content and analysis. (I will do an extensive review of this book in coming weeks).
The big news for independent voters is that a cable network has finally FORMALLY acknowledged that there is a point of view that may not belong to either party by hiring as a staff analyst a top independent voter writer and speaker — acknowleding that to truly understand politics you also need the perspective of voters who don’t consider themselves conservatives or liberals or Ds or Rs.
Theres voters DO exist and now that perspective will be routinely offered to all viewers who can accept it or reject it.
But by hiring Avalon CNN has acknowledged that as a corporation it most assuredly sees it.