This week marks the debut of Fox Business' new political roundtable show called 'The Independents.' It is hosted by Lisa 'Kennedy' Montgomery, and co-hosted by Matt Welch, and Kmele Foster.
Kennedy, best known for her tenure as an MTV VJ turned conservative political pundit, acts as the show's anchor/moderator, steering the 5-person panel through multiple topics and brief news segments.
Her co-hosts, both with notable conservative bona fides, include Reason magazine's editor-in-chief Matt Welch and Kmele Foster, who sits on the board of directors for America's Future Foundation. So what does this independent voter think about the show following its opening week?
Before getting into the show's substance, the name warrants some scrutiny. If a show is going to have a panel with three libertarians on it, it would make sense to just call the show 'The Libertarians.' Yes, it is true, many libertarians are not affiliated with either major party, in essence qualifying for the 'independent' label, but the concern here is the purveyance of the common misnomer that an independent voter is automatically a Libertarian. Or for that matter, he or she would identify as conservative/liberal or any of the traditional labels used to neatly categorize political preferences without thinking too hard.
The best example of how this fundamental yet repeatedly ignored fact appeared in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. When Kennedy laid out the direction for the show she said, "We want to have liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans all on the show to talk about the issues that they’re invested in."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVZsGcNZ1NAI would think that a show called 'The Independents' would have more... well, independents. As an independent, it'd be nice for the panel to discuss what independents think, as opposed to the Republican and Democratic view. It should go without saying, but there are more than two (liberal v. conservative) perspectives one can have on an issue.
Yet all could be forgiven if, substantively, 'The Independents' managed to foster a robust and intellectually challenging discussion with 60 minutes of air-time.
Unfortunately that's not the case. The format itself seems utterly incapable of meeting that goal. The three co-hosts are less ideologically diverse than a groupthink convention. In addition the two guests come on essentially as representatives of their respective parties, one Republican and one Democrat. As a result, the show pretty much devolves into four conservatives all agreeing that the one Democrat is wrong on everything.
To be clear, the problem here isn't that this is a conservative show, with conservative guests, that promotes a conservative world-view. The problem is that the label, 'Independent.' is being fundamentally, and perhaps disingenuously misappropriated. Independent does not mean conservative, or liberal, or libertarian, or socialist ect. It means, to me at least, holding an open mind. One that's receptive to a diverse series of opinions. Then evaluating ideas based on their own merits. So this show begs the question, how can you make an informed decision while being exposed to what amounts to one world-view, counteracted by a single, minority, voice?
Regardless of ones feelings about the word 'independent,' Fox's programming, or that the show's host technically only has one name, the fact that this show even exists at all and wrapped in the marketing veneer Fox is promoting it with, holds a very clear message. The message is both parties no longer appeal to the majority of Americans.
Whether or not 'The Independents' will become the bastion for diverse discussion on the pressing issues that face voters today remains to be seen. Out of the gate, however, it looks like cynical lip service geared towards an ideologically homogenous constituency.