Sunday, March 10, 2013

JFK and Ronald Reagan, what went wrong after 1988?

I've been chewing on the nation's political fortunes for the last few days.  I'm not sure why, but I feel overwhelmed by how far right the USA has turned politically.  But then, I really thought about it and decided what I was feeling simply isn't true.  I just think the game has been rigged.  Money drives America's political fortunes and unfortunately, those with deep pockets like to spend on conservative causes.

What got me to the keyboard was a speech that was sent to me by an old running rival.  It was a campaign speech delivered by John F. Kennedy at Shawnee Mission East high school in 1960.  That reminded me of 1983 when I went to Dallas, Texas for the 20th anniversary of JFK's assassination.  The powerhouse station in Dallas, WFAA, was showing all of its footage of the President's Texas visit which included all of the sound from his speeches.  I sat there thinking that I was listening to President Ronald Reagan.

Kennedy was talking about cutting taxes, controlling government spending and stopping the communists.  It was like getting head upside the head with a dead mule.  Except for his liberal stance, that we should integrate our colleges and let black people vote, there wasn't much separating JFK from Reagan.  America really hadn't changed much from 1963 to 1983 save for one thing, Reagan had empowered conservatives. 

Newt Gingrich took it a step further in 1994 with his Contract with America and the Evangelicals were all in.  There was no looking back for the Republican Party.  Country Club Republicans found themselves tied to Christian zealots who wanted prayer back in our schools and abortion banned, period.  They held their noses and proceeded forward.

The crowning coup was the emergence of Rush Limbaugh in the late 1980's and FOX News less than a decade later.  Suddenly conservatives had a voice that could articulate their feelings, even if much of it was based on half truths and ginned up statistics.  Sadder still, Rush and FOX became the lone source of news along with a burgeoning brigade of bloggers.  Nothing on the mainstream newscasts could be trusted and you were going to hell if your read the New York Times.

What happened to peace, love and understanding?  The depression generation that grew up to fight World War II by and large doesn't recognize the current political landscape.  In fact, most of them that I know just hold their nose.  They don't like President Obama and they sure as hell didn't like any of the Republican alternatives.  Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi don't represent what most Americans believe but neither do Mitch McConnell or Eric Cantor.  John Boehner is Speaker of the House in name only, he has no power.

I think by and large the majority of Americans still believe in a woman's right to choose, think that the 2nd Amendment isn't an absolute and politics and religion don't mix.  I think the fact that a majority of Americans could hold their nose and re-elect President Obama proves that point.  But even now the game is rigged.  Big money will do what it can to undo what the Electoral College did in 2012.  It will push state legislatures to change the rules of the electoral game, just as they got Republican controlled legislatures to gerrymander the hell out of Congressional districts to guarantee a GOP majority in the house for at least the next decade. Add to that a Supreme Court that may be prepared to undo the civil rights of million of voters of color and you get the drift.

Just as much as we need to separate religion from our politics, we need to separate money from the process.  We all know neither is going to happen, so division will remain a festering part of the process.  The word compromise has become a four-letter word.  How sad it all is.

But I see a glimmer of hope.  The FCC is taking a hard look at stopping the job killing consolidation of broadcast media.  That's right, that conservative move to deregulate broadcasting has killed, not created thousands of jobs and made a lot of investment bankers very, very rich.  But all of these duopolies and even triopolies that have sprung up in the 200 plus television markets across America are in peril.

If you think this is a bad thing I ask you to Google a company called Sinclair Broadcasting.  It's owners are all about making a buck on the backs of its employees, pushing a thinly veiled political agenda as news, and running news operations into the ground.  They own more than 60 television stations.  When I started in this business you could only own 7, then it went to 12 and then Katie bar the door.   I'm not holding my breath, but if the FCC puts a stop to this nonsense, then there is reason to hope.

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