I've written on this topic many times before, and I'm certainly not the only one to do so, but two items in the news recently caught my eye and got me thinking about this again.
First, the productivity surge of the lame-duck Congress has been widely touted as a "win" for President Obama. Why does someone have to win and lose? Both institutions have seen their approval ratings drop, both have an interest in getting things accomplished, and the compromises struck to get these recent things passed should be seen as (at least partial) agreements and compromises--the way the system "works," when it's working. Declaring a victor just feeds the very "either-or" problem that the media tells us citizens are frustrated with.
Second, more in the vein of revealing minutia, consider the following "Consider This" passage from Thursday's Post-Standard, written by the paper's editors, regarding the county legislature's approval of a pay raise for the comptroller, which will put his salary more in line with those of other county comptrollers: "Meanwhile, those of us in the private sector (the real world) lucky enough to be employed have gone years without pay raises or, worse, endured pay cuts while watching our expenses--including taxes--rise. Giving Antonacci a huge pay raise, and doing it now, shows just how far out of touch our politicians are with the public. Are you working for us, or are we working for you?"
Criticizing the decision is of course fair game, and the paper has a point on the substantive issue. But the disdain for politics and politicians dripping off these words does not advance the goal of productive civic engagement and political dialogue. This is simply anti-government in tone, and counter-productive. Furthermore, the invoking of a "we" here, through the use of "us in the private sector," invites a joining of the writers with the readers that might warrant some additional transparency on the part of the paper, if one wants to follow that logic to its conclusion.
Note: This blog draws in part on my experiences and observations interviewing political figures, writers, and analysts for "The Campbell Conversations" on WRVO. To hear past interviews I refer to in these posts, please go to the show's website. The views expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent Syracuse University, the Campbell Institute, or the WRVO Stations.
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