I usually ignore Maureen Dowd’s columns, as her view of politics-as-cocktail-party is not worth the time. I happened to read her column, “Democrats High on Their Own Supply,” and felt the urge to write my first diary about it.
More than your average “both sides do it” piece, Dowd’s article clearly expresses and defends a mass media tendency that progressives despise and that hurts our democracy.
Dowd’s argument revolves around reporter Seung Min Kim asking Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) whether she had seen a mean tweet that Neera Tanden (President Biden’s nominee for Budget Director) had written about her in 2017, then proceeded to show it to her when she said she hadn’t.
For Dowd, the uproar from some Democrats regarding this question meant that the Democrats don’t understand the meaning of a free press and want them to be propagandists for the left rather than devoted servants of the truth. Just like Republicans.
Just look at the content of the question asked by Kim, however, and consider its implications for what political reporters deem important truths to be covered. Isn’t the job of Murkowski and other Senators to “advise and consent” to the nominations made by the President? And shouldn’t this advice and consent be based upon the qualifications of the candidate, the good of the Senator’s constituents, and what they believe is in the best interest of the country? How does a question about a mean tweet directed towards an individual speak to any of those issues? Murkowski is granted her powers as a Senator to act as a representative of her constituents, not to avenge her hurt feelings or personal embarrassment.
The problem is deeper than one of Kim and other reporters asking tough questions of both sides, but the view of politics these questions reflect. Simply put, this view is the one that Trump rode to victory on and built his cult with. Democrats and progressives want politics to be about policies that will help Americans and solve problems; Trumpists want to make politics about lies, insults, personalities and tribal warfare, so that the American people continue to believe that politics is just a sideshow that has nothing to do with their lives.
Journalists should hold politicians accountable on both sides of the aisle, but they should do so in substantive ways, not by asking irrelevant questions that look more like gotcha oppo research than substantive questions about policy. At a deeper level, the choices that journalists and media companies make right now will have an important impact on whether we as a nation are able to rise from the destruction of January 6th to revitalize our democracy, or to slide helplessly into fascism.