Traverse City Record-Eagle

Other Views

October 3, 2013

Another View: Money, media, apathy got us into mess

Americans are frustrated their duly elected leaders can’t figure out how to operate our government in a reasonable way.

It may be no panacea for those folks, but it’s worth discussing how we let it get this far out of hand, out of control.

Political parties have become more susceptible to special interests, making it all the more difficult for citizens to have even an equal say. Money flows more easily into campaigns and individuals or small groups can now influence an election where once it required a large amount of people making small contributions.

Part of that influence has even driven court decisions in certain states that influence where congressional boundary lines are drawn. Critics argue the intransigence of the GOP House tea party movement is bolstered by more and more of these representatives coming from districts that are so dominated by one brand of political thought, the representatives have no worries about re-elections, sometimes for decades.

This kind of concentration of power without accountability also derails the old time power of political party leaders. One only needs to witness how little control Speaker John Boehner has over his tea party caucus to see how this has shifted the power of political party leaders, once key players in Washington.

Those kind of power centers seem to be fading away quickly. The tools for some of that power wielding also have gone away, some say for the better.

The changing media landscape plays another central role in this eroding of citizen democracy. The number of news reporters whose job it once was to serve as watchdogs for taxpayers and the public has been depleted by 50 percent in some news organizations over the last five years or so.

There’s just a lot more room for political shenanigans to go undetected. And the media that remains — mostly broadcast and national — is aimed at building up the “conflict industry” – overstating or creating conflict to generate ratings.

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