Politics

The Transitive Property of Marginalization, and the Unconscious Statism of Pundits Who Like Presidents

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Salon Editor in Chief Joan Walsh, while getting President Obama's back on the health care debate, tries to make a tremendously significant and complicated policy overhaul mostly about the political party not in power:

I know Obama has a nearly impossible task, dealing with Blue Dog Democrats and crazy Republicans—from Wild Bill Kristol, chickenhawk, telling the GOP to "go for the kill" and do whatever it takes to defeat Obama on healthcare, to Sen. Jim DeMint's similarly sinister prediction that if Republicans defeat Obama on healthcare "it will break him." GOP zealots are clearly more interested in killing or breaking President Obama—politically, of course; I don't think they are assassins, personally—than helping Americans get the healthcare they need. It's a little creepy, but once you've watched a crazy "birther" hector moderate Republican Mike Castle about Obama's birth certificate and other related delusions—well, then nothing Republicans do can surprise you.

Though Walsh would surely bristle at the label, I think she's demonstrating here (even in half-jest) what Jesse Walker memorably coined as "the paranoia of the centrists." By portraying Republicans as "crazy," "nearly impossible" to deal with, "interested in killing or breaking Obama," and obsessed with "Obama's birth certificate and other related delusions," she is attempting to marginalize the minority national party away from the Adult's Table, in much the same way that pro-war Republicans at the height of George W. Bush's popularity aimed to tar anti-war Democrats as being "on the other side." Put another way, what does a (mostly) fringe obsession with Obama's birth certificate have to do with Obama's health care plan? Precisely nothing.

This is a visual depiction of The Burden of Proof

Democrats and their supporters, like any temporary majoritarian with hands on the wheel of state, need to remember an important point: The burden of proof is not on the minority party (or other citizens) who say "no" or even "hold on a sec." The burden of proof is on the politician who wants to make a major change in public policy and the use of taxpayer dollars. (And for the record, I say this as someone who finds much of our current health care system to be disgraceful.) It wouldn't matter a bit what Bill Kristol thought (or whether he, uh, served in the military?) if the Obama administration had crafted a health care plan that passed the smell test for 60 percent of the population, or even all of his own party's senators. I know it's irritating and all, but you really do have to convince the rest of us sometimes, instead of just pressing the "Do Something" button.

Having opened fire on the minority, Walsh then turns her scope onto the media:

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Obama had to move his Wednesday press conference, which is expected to zero in on the importance of serious health care reform, an hour earlier, because three of four national networks balked at preempting their top-rated shows. According to THR: "Fox declined to air the press conference outright. NBC and ABC fell into line late Monday after the White House shifted the event's time from the previously announced 9 p.m. to the lesser-watched hour of 8 p.m." What shows were they worried about? "America's Got Talent," "So You Think You Can Dance," "Wipeout" and "I Survived a Japanese Game Show!"

Now, I love my reality TV, but that's a disturbing, indelible picture of how skewed our media priorities are.

How did Salon react when "media priorities" forced President Bush to reschedule his prime-time press conference about Social Security reform in 2005? Like this.

[Link via Ann Althouse]