It is likely that the political stalemate between Republicans and Democrats will be resolved in some manner sooner rather than later. It could have been much sooner than later: the reality is that it need not have occurred in the first place.
Why did it occur? Because a media and political system allowed false equivalencies to rule the day. False equivalencies give plausibility to each side even if one side is provably wrong. Anthony was creepy for showing his private parts on twitter; David Vitter using the services of prostitutes broke the law. The media treated these two events as equivalent.
Over the years Republicans have successfully used a trick that works almost all of the times—they accuse the media of having a liberal bias. They tell their base that the media and institutions of learning favor liberals, and in doing so, "attacks" on Republicans by the media are perceived by their base as false and stemming from so-called liberalism. This trick has important consequences, as we'll learn below the fold.
The most serious consequence of the accusation of the media having a liberal bias is its effect on the traditional media: It forces members to overcompensate in an attempt to seem "balanced." This has been on display quite a bit lately. Throughout the current government shutdown and budget crisis, the traditional media has been attempting to make it look as if the differences between the two parties has been a simple dispute for which both sides bear the equal responsibility. Reporters reminded America that Senator Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling, for example. While true, President Obama’s political vote never placed the country in danger.
During the health care debate, the traditional media made it seems like death panels, government takeover of health care, and throwing grandma over the cliff was an equivalent argument to Democrats arguing in favor of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. Inasmuch as these were patently false, giving them equivalent weight in discussions gave the less-informed American a traditional media-made plausible reason to accept a fallacy.
During the president’s second attempt at instituting an infrastructure-based stimulus, Republicans balked. Even while the country was in crisis, the traditional media did not point out that Republicans have, previously, always supported this type of spending. The media made it appear like a simple disagreement was taking place. Wolf Blitzer broke character and praised President Obama by saying he has a "Golda Meir Instincts." A few days later, fearing the attack that he wasn't balanced, he jumped into policy and stated that Obamacare should have been delayed.
Both parties use the traditional media in an attempt to get some advantage, allowing each side to make its case over issues and matters of ideology. The problem is when politicians or their operatives blatantly lie to attempt to get their point across. In that case the media’s role is not to be balanced—it is to inform the citizens of the lies and misinformation.
It is fair to give balance to the big government versus small government debate. Democrats prefer big government with a strong safety net, while Republicans prefer small government. This is a valid choice Americans must make, and neither party is wrong or right. However, Americans must be allowed to make that decision based on truths. What does big government mean for Social Security, Medicare, health care or parks? What does a system in which services are doled out mostly by the private sector mean? These are profound questions that Americans must know the answers to. If a Republican says reducing taxes and reducing the deficit will have no negative impacts on the social safety net and a Democrat says it will, it is the media’s role to give context, especially if there is history that can be used to evaluate the veracity of claims.
There is no equivalence in most of the political arguments today. The Republican Party has lied to the American population not on what the party's ideology is, but on what that ideology would do to the standard of living of the working middle class. Making their arguments equivalent to those of the Democrats confuses Americans just like snake oil salesmen of the past did. And Republicans were permitted by the media to get away with a level of lies and misinformation that acted to embolden them and their lies.
It took a government shutdown in a poor economy to show Americans that Republicans were full of it. Citizens realized that they wanted government much more than they thought. It took the opening of the health care exchanges for Americans to start seeing that Republicans were lying all along about Obamacare pricing, affordability, benefits. Republican poll numbers have crashed as favorability for Obamacare numbers rebound.
It was unnecessary for Americans to have suffered through the pain of a government shutdown. If the traditional media had held politicians accountable, Americans would have made the right decisions. No party would believe they could take a country hostage and not pay a political price. Now, Republicans—and the rest of us—are learning.