I am not naive when it comes to the media and politics, but I was still appalled that last night's Democratic debate wasted nearly forty minutes of our time on Bitter-gate, Reverend Wright-gate, flag pin-gate, Bosnian sniper fire-gate, and ex-Weathermen-gate. I know that these ostensibly burning questions are determined by the narrow preoccupations of the news media and their insatiable desire for a "gotcha" moment. (Since Nixon and Watergate, reporters and readers alike have become incapable of separating scandal from pseudo-scandal.) Personal innuendo passes for political insight. Trivia masquerades as substance. And all too many Americans tune out substantive policy discussions as boring and prefer the "reality TV" politics of name-calling, guilt-by-association, and smarmy apologies.
In my ideal political world, both candidates would have told Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos to shut up and change the subject. Obama tried in his cautious way to point out that these issues are a distraction from what really matters. But he was way too much on the defensive to come out strong, for fear of being accused of dodging questions that he's already answered again and again and again and again and again. And Clinton sees these petty flaps as her last chance to grasp the ring and prove her electability. Fortunately, the debates finally turned to matters of substance. What worried me most was the assumptions that both candidates made about taxation and class. Both Hillary and Barack were painted into the corner of pledging not to raise taxes on Americans making less than $200K. But both cling to the dubious, wholly inaccurate assumption that people making over $200,000 or $250,000 per year are "middle class." By any measure, these are not ordinary, middle Americans. They are not just rich. They are, by any sensible economic measure super rich. I'll post more on our strange assumptions about class later.
For now, I'll just keep screaming at my television.