Our political Quote of the Day comes from President Elect Barack Obama who said this in a Washington Post interview on the subject about changing the tone of 21st century American politics:
What I hope to model is a way of interacting with people who aren’t like you and don’t agree with you that changes the temper of our politics. And then part of that changes how we think about moving forward on race relations. Race relations becomes a subset of a larger problem in our society, which is we have a diverse, complicated society where people have a lot of different viewpoints.
Obama will take office in a land where the 1980s tabloidization of the mainstream news media, combined with the rise of big bucks cable news networks, the counter-media Fox News network, highly profitable conservative talk shows such as Rush Limbaugh’s and Sean Hannity’s, progressive talk shows modeled after rage-filled conservative talk shows, and the continued growth of outspoken citzen-op-ed-page-style weblogs have all helped foster an angry and polarized talk radio political culture. It’s us against them..
The culture doesn’t acknowledge another viewpoint but encourages demonizing groups and individuals who see things another way. It’s the “best defense is a good offense” idea. But it wasn’t always this way: there WAS a time where bitter foes in the White House and Congress quietly talked with each other, lunched together, and where every debate didn’t end with the assertion that if the other side prevailed it would be the end of the United States as we all know it.
Obama may have a chance to reset America’s political tone because so many factors have now combined on this day of January 19, 2009 that Americans of different parties and ideologies now feel the America as they knew it has receded. And not because of one man, or one party.
Obama’s comment above signifies two things: 1)he puts a premium on consensus 2)if he even partially prevails, there will be a new center in America. No matter what, Obama will still be angrily lambasted by some on the right and left. But his gamble is this: are Americans truly ready to discourage the continued flowering of the loud and angry talk radio political culture?
Or is it just too much fun?
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.