Monday, July 28, 2008

The Television-Political Complex

Nearly a half-century ago, America was warned of a symbiotic relationship that put our democratic society at great risk. That threat is with us still, but it has been joined by another symbiosis that poses every bit as much danger to our system of government.

The Chicago Tribune today published an article about the arms race in judicial campaigns and the threat it poses to courts in Wisconsin and other states across the country. But it was a columnist in a much smaller paper, the San Jose Mercury News, who put his finger on what's at the root of the problem.

Politicians nowadays are little more than collection agents for the TV stations. They ceaselessly dial for dollars – and surround themselves with a stable of handlers and consultants who assist them in the endeavor – in order to buy air time that is the crack cocaine of modern politics. Those supplying the cash want something in return, and get it time and again. The TV stations then provide the fix the political junkies crave, peddling their dope – often at a hefty premium – and profiting handsomely. And, oh yes, as the Mercury News columnist points out, they never air stories telling the American people about how it all works and what it's doing to our country.

The politicians win. The big special interest donors win. The TV industry wins. The average taxpaying citizen loses. Democracy dies a little with each transaction. So does America.

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