There was a second part of President Obama’s interview with Vox that covered domestic issues. The president spoke about a number of subjects but what grabbed our attention was his view on why there is so much gridlock in Washington.
By his own words, it would appear that our chief executive does not buy into one of the fundamental tenets we all grew up with: that “the clash of ideas” in a “marketplace of ideas” is the touchstone of decision-making in our democracy. We found ourselves once again feeling grateful that presidents are limited to two terms in office.
Mr. Obama was asked to comment on poll results showing him to be the “most polarizing president” since pollsters began addressing that question, continuing the recent trend of each president outpolling his immediate predecessor in this regard.
Here is part of what the president had to say:
[A] lot of it has to do with the fact that the balkanization of the media means that we just don’t have a common place where we get common facts and a common worldview the way we did 20, 30 years ago. And that just keeps on accelerating, you know. And I’m not the first one to observe this, but you’ve got the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh folks and then you’ve got the MSNBC folks and the – I don’t know where Vox falls into that, but you guys are, I guess for the brainiac-nerd types. But the point is that technology which brings the world to us also allows us to narrow our point of view. That’s contributed to it…. So my advice to a future president is increasingly try to bypass the traditional venues that create divisions….
So Mr. Obama longs for the days of a homogenized media – comprised almost exclusively of Manhattan-based liberals – that had a virtual monopoly on deciding what was and wasn’t “news,” and he in essence urges a return to it.
When a tightly knit liberal-left media and publishing fraternity largely controlled the flow of information, true debate was difficult to sustain, and almost meaningless in any event, since the public arena was an infinitely tidier place and a president – especially a Democratic president – could usually get his way through symbiotic and manipulating relationships with the powerful few.
Gone are the days when an anchorman sitting in a New York studio could, after sharing 22 minutes of carefully selected and edited news items, trumpet in stentorian tones, “And that’s the way it is.” No it wasn’t. It never was.
Alternative news sources make for a better-informed public, and that’s a good thing in our eyes. But obviously not in the eyes of someone who has convinced himself he has the corner on what is right.