Ted Rall on the Media's Marginalization of Dissent. "The American media deploys a deep and varied arsenal of rhetorical devices in order to marginalise opinions, people and organisations as 'outside the mainstream' and therefore not worth listening to," argues political columnist Ted Rall. Perhaps unusually, he finds that "for the most part the people and groups being declaimed belong to the political Left" because, "In the United States, 'both sides' means the back-and-forth between centre-right Democrats and rightist Republicans." He defines marginalization as "the intentional decision to exclude a voice in order to prevent a 'dangerous' opinion from gaining currency, to block a politician or movement from becoming more powerful, or both." As an example, he cites the Green Party and Third-Party politicians such as Ralph Nadar. "When a personality - almost always on the Left - becomes too big to ignore, the mainstream media often resorts to ridicule. Like Communist Party USA chief Gus Hall, Nader is often derided as 'perennial presidential candidate Ralph Nader.' Personalities on the far right wing, like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, on the other hand, are characterised as 'refreshing' and 'exciting' (if intellectually slight)." With regard to Left opinions, he argues that the media underscores them with the phrase "the dreaded phrase 'no one seriously thinks that …'" But "the track record of the Serious Ones is atrocious. And yet, on one story after another, even relatively minor ones, the US media continues to turn yesterday's 'no one thinks' into today's 'everyone knows'."
Drew Westen on Obama's Loss of Passion. Psychology professor Drew Westen considers the important of narrative in politics, and the stories our leaders must tell us. In his estimation, Obama should have "offered a clear, compelling alternative to the dominant narrative of the right, that our problem is not due to spending on things like the pensions of firefighters, but to the fact that those who can afford to buy influence are rewriting the rules so they can cut themselves progressively larger slices of the American pie while paying less of their fair share for it." But he did not. Instead, "Barack Obama stared into the eyes of history and chose to avert his gaze...Had the president chosen to bend the arc of history, he would have told the public the story of the destruction wrought by the dismantling of the New Deal regulations that had protected them for more than half a century...But the arc of his temperament just didn’t bend that far." So what is the source of this? According to Westen, "the most charitable explanation is that he and his advisers have succumbed to a view of electoral success to which many Democrats succumb — that 'centrist' voters like 'centrist' politicians. Unfortunately, reality is more complicated." Then this is this alternate explanation: "A somewhat less charitable explanation is that we are a nation that is being held hostage not just by an extremist Republican Party but also by a president who either does not know what he believes or is willing to take whatever position he thinks will lead to his re-election." Finally, Westen offers this: that "he ran for president on two contradictory platforms: as a reformer who would clean up the system, and as a unity candidate who would transcend the lines of red and blue. He has pursued the one with which he is most comfortable given the constraints of his character, consistently choosing the message of bipartisanship over the message of confrontation."