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The Gridlock Myth

by Alan Markow, published

Nearly every report about America’s political climate declares that we are in a national state of gridlock.  I beg to differ.  California may well be in gridlock, where the two parties stand with their feet mired in concrete and merely sway back and forth without giving any ground.  But on the national level, only one side has remained in a fixed position throughout the past few months.

As the country has lurched from one financial crisis to another, the Republicans have signed “no new taxes” pledges that have made negotiations with them impossible.  Meanwhile, the President, as leader of the Democrats, has constantly moved his position on taxation to the right until he agreed to a cuts-only budget in order to reach a debt-ceiling agreement.

In other words, the Democrats are not standing pat.  They are responding to changes in the electorate and finding means of compromising in order to move the dialogue forward and meet the pragmatic needs of the country.

Yet, we continue to read in the media that the two parties are in gridlock, as if there is an equality of intransigence.  That is the “talking point” that the media chooses to promote in order to pretend that they are balanced in their reporting. Such is today’s new style of journalism – one that requires false balance rather than honest reporting, and one that resorts to lazy reporting rather than real research and genuine analysis by reporters and editors. 

In my view, it seems so obvious to me that it is the President and the Democrats who have done all the heavy lifting in the debt ceiling negotiations that it is hard to understand stories, like the one The Fiscal Times published this weekend, which repeatedly used words like “gridlock” and “standoff” regarding the two parties while explaining Standard and Poor’s downgrade of the U.S. debt from AAA to AA+. 

The writer states:

     “Both parties are so destructively dug in that there's little likelihood that Washington will agree to change entitlements or raise taxes enough to produce an effective package -- and both are required.” 

Note how the writer failed to acknowledge the desire by Democrats to attack entitlements and raise new revenues, and the Republicans’ refusal to take on both issues.

I would argue that the false equivalency between the two parties is the grand victory of Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and Fox News, which use their media outlets to propagandize for the right-wing rather than enlighten the American public.  In the great tradition of advertising and public relations, they stretch the truth and depend on the public to accept them at their word.

A friend told me the other day that Obama’s extreme left-wing behaviors have caused all the problems in the debt ceiling debate.  When I asked him if he had heard about how the far left had been excoriating Obama for being too conservative in this self-same debate, he simply denied that it ever happened.  I suggested he had been watching too much Fox News and pointed out some sources of anti-Obama rhetoric from the left, as well as Obama support from Reagan Republicans such as Bruce Bartlett.

If one chooses to believe the highly questionable accusations against the President and the Democrats made by the Ann Coulters, Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world, and you consider your President a shill of left-wing terrorists, then there may be nothing anyone can do to change your mind.  But if you have an open mind, then you might want to consider the following points:  Obama governs as a classic centrist politician who understands the art of compromise.  He seeks to bring us back to "the center", while the Republicans have seemingly been seduced (or bludgeoned) by the Tea Party, and they cannot or will not find their way back to the middle with their current leadership.

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