It’s hard being a news junkie and something of a political activist, especially in an election year. Despite my daily resolutions to divert from rehashed polls reported ad nauseam on CNN and MSNBC to the pleasures of Turner Classics, or recordings of Jon Oliver’s brilliant show Last Week Tonight, I still can’t resist channel surfing back to presidential pundit-speak and crawlers, which invariably get my dander up.
One thing that drives me bonkers is the frequency with which major news stories from here and abroad are totally overlooked, or texted in crawlers by American networks and cable news outlets. You’d think there was no world out there. With Aljazeera America gone, there’s only the BBC to turn to, and often their coverage is questionable.
Here’s an example of something that unnerves me when I click on the news, which segues with my disillusionment with Democrats. A crawler reads, “Toddler kills mother with handgun.” The next day it’s “Four-year old shoots two-year old sister.” Gun violence is a major crisis and an urgent public health issue in this country. So why aren’t the Dems – and media’s talking heads – addressing the issue more urgently? Why haven’t interviewers held Bernie’s feet to the fire on the matter? We already know he has a D- rating with the NRA. That’s irrelevant to the question of why his voting record on gun legislation is so inadequate, nor does it tell us what he plans to do to address gun violence if elected.
Why, too, does Bernie keep harking back to Hillary’s Wall Street speeches along with other redundancies? How about they cut a deal: she releases her speeches when he releases his tax records, so we can all move on to the really important issues. (According to Facebook, Jane Sandersproposed this idea last month, putting the onus on Hillary first.)
And where was Bernie’s condemnation of his spokesperson’s term “Democratic whores”? Or his strong statement admonishing supporters for throwing dollar bills at his opponent? Given that his adversary is a woman, these were particularly insulting and troubling terms and actions; they smacked of the kind of misogyny Hillary Rodham Clinton is routinely subjected to and they should be roundly rejected by anyone vying for leadership. It is not going too far, I think, to suggest that such language and actions smack of Trump tactics.
Hillary Clinton also has some explaining to do to this Democrat. Why, for example, did she make no mention of Israel’s responsibility toward peace in the Middle East when she addressed – or pandered to – AIPAC? It’s one thing to be a supporter of or an ally to Israel, but surely their government should be called out by ours for continuing to build illegal settlements, and for their brutal behavior toward Arabs living in ghettos in Gaza and the West Bank.
Further, according to many of her supporters, she has donated her Goldman Sachs speaking fees. Why then has she not been able to say that during the debates? If it’s true I’d also like to know to whom funds were donated. And while I agree that it’s important to support “down stream Democratic candidates,” how smart was it to hold a Hollywood fundraiser in primary season that cost over $300,000 to sponsor and over $30,000 to attend? Could you shout “one percent” any louder?
The escalating negativity and hostility on display during recent Democratic debates was also deeply troubling. What ever happened to the promises of civility and mutual respect that both candidates promised and deserve? I’m tired of sandbox politics overall, but I’m especially distressed to see two people I respect in my party behaving like children throwing temper tantrums, being on the shady side of the truth, making false or hyperbolized accusations, and generally acting as if they are willing to win at the cost of their own integrity.
This election is, I believe, one of the most important ones we will have faced in our lifetimes. Its outcome matters deeply, dramatically and for the long term. Nothing illustrates that more than the Democracy Spring movement that emerged following the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements.
Something is happening in America, as in other countries that will shape our individual and collective futures in ways we have yet to realize. Not since the Populist movement that followed the Gilded Age have Americans seen such a frenzied plea for social justice and social change.
It is the responsibility of all politicians, but especially Democrats – as well as the media – to hear what is being articulated by the 99 percent, to understand the critical underpinnings of their call for meaningful reform, and to respond to such calls with intelligence, compassion, clarity, honesty, strategy, and the sense of urgency the message demands. There are vital connections to be made with respect to class, race, gender, poverty and more. That leaves no time or taste for nasty attacks, minimalist crawlers, or meaningless and repetitive banter.
The time for mean-spirited exchange, empty slogans, and dumbed-down discourse is over. It’s time for civility and sensible action. The question is: Can the Democrats, and the news media, rise to it?