How Those in Power Want Anything but Bipartisanship
In Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union address, the president urged bipartisanship to heal a deeply divided and struggling nation. “What the American people hope” he pleaded, “what they deserve – is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics.”
As a candidate, Barack Obama urged bipartisanship as a means of navigating the problems facing the nation. He explained that “we are not Red America or Blue America, but the United States of America”. Regardless of the speaker, the words remain true. However, over the last decade, those in control of wealth have found that bipartisanship does not pay. In fact, what pays is bitter partisanship.
We saw glimmers of the soon to be profitability of hate during the Clinton years. Rush Limbaugh, as an entertainer, (or infotainer, depending on your perspective) reaped millions of dollars by vilifying the other with charges like “feminazi”. His effective brand of anti-Clinton, anti-government and anti-liberalism allowed him to bring home millions of dollars a year. His current take is $33 million a year.
The scope of this hatred, one could argue, was more limited. Congress, while unwilling to pass health care reform, managed to work together to craft bipartisan legislation that allowed them to balance the budget, eliminate unnecessary programs and fix Medicare, among other legislative victories.
Enter 2001, after a nasty electoral dispute, and those looking to profit from partisan rancor multiplied exponentially. Michael Moore, a beloved Left Wing filmmaker produced “Fahrenheit 9/11”, a film attempting to connect the dots of the Bush Administration’s ties to big oil and their supposed plans to dupe the American people into engaging in a war with Iraq. Passed off as a documentary, Moore’s film brought in well over $100 million, making it a blockbuster. The film’s consistent line of attack against Republicans and focus on partisanship drove a wedge between the two camps–at a hefty profit.
FOX News, a nascent news organization formed in the late 90s, grew into a powerful force over the decade, with talking heads like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity delivering charged, vociferous attacks against the Left Wing media and Left Wing agenda. The network’s top star, Bill O’Reilly, now earns over $10 million a year. Its rising star, Glenn Beck, is now on track to make $18 million, which includes his $3 million book deal.
MSNBC, recognizing the profitability of partisanship, was quick to respond with its own set of talking heads eager to attack the Right and Right Wing social views. The oft-praised by liberals, shunned by conservatives, Keith Olbermann, is making a estimated $7 million. And Rachel Maddow, the left’s enduring crush, brings in over $1 million a year.
Dig a little further and you will find both left and right wing online news sites generating millions in profit, such as the Huffington Post, a political tabloid magazine. This is only scratching the surface of what surely amounts to a billion dollar industry.
America wants and needs centrism. But these monetary figures show a deep rooted problem in achieving that goal. Monied interests, and the viewing public, is partly to blame for a disfigured Washington. To continue to promote, engage in, and pay for the political hate game will result only in a more divided Congress and divided nation. It doesn’t take a genius to see that political divisiveness and backbiting is not just a profitable market, but a hugely profitable market. This system produces millionaires, all to the detriment of millions of Americans who no longer have access to the American dream they rightly deserve.
Barack Obama’s agenda and politics are not going to be bridging the divide in this increasingly splintered nation. Americans must make the choice, both for the nation’s future and for their pocketbooks, to stop paying and playing into the pre-planned political hatred, and start investing in rebuilding and reconciliation. The key to a better Washington is a better America. And a better America will always begin – and end – with its people.
David Lorango is an author who is concerned about the state of America and what we can do to make it better. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit twitter.com/davidlorango
Graphics Credit: http://www.salon.com/2011/01/20/gene_lyons_road_rage/