As Washington mourns former Senator Bob Dole, Congress could use a dozen more Republican stalwarts just like him.
Senator Bob Dole, the great statesman and luminary from Kansas passed away today. As Capitol Hill mourns another passing of the old guard, it is worth noting the bipartisanship and compassion Dole brought to his office.
Dole’s “Gravitas”, that most rarified of qualities, lives on in his legacy of public service, military sacrifice and philanthropy.
Whatever the Republican Party is today, it isn’t the party the youthful Bob Dole joined so many years ago. In some ways, the GOP has improved since the days globalism seduced conservative politicians like George H.W. Bush and his son. Republicans like John McCain and Mitt Romney fell into its trap along with so many Democratic politicians.
But globalism, as we are learning to our cost, is not without its downsides. The bill of sale never itemized fiscal burdens like the gutting of the American manufacturing industry, the exploitation of low-wage workers in pre-regulatory emerging nations, and a 10,000 mile petroleum based supply line.
These costs were, alas, included.
As a result of the left’s relentless, and relentlessly rosy, push for more globalism, the Republican Party has, almost without meaning to, become the party of the working-class. Cultural elites have certainly abandoned the GOP. In any case, cultural elites who remain conservative in their politics are keeping mum about it.
Who can blame them? The right to maintain silence is a constitutionally protected safeguard against self-incrimination.
10 years ago, 27 of the 30 wealthiest districts in the country were controlled by Republicans. Today, the opposite is true. The Democratic Party now shares equally with Republicans the 30 poorest.
Over that same time period, civility in politics died a lengthy, cruel and public death. Nothing short of a great national catastrophe or invasion by aliens seems likely to remedy our polarity now.
Whether Donald Trump killed civility in politics, or the legacy media killed it trying to bring down Donald Trump; or whether the slide started long before with the left’s open contempt of George W. Bush, or the right’s unvarnished disgust with Bill Clinton- is anyone’s guess.
The end result is the same: It is a political landscape dotted with fewer and fewer Bob Doles- more and more political candidates concerned with image first, substance second, and reaching across the aisle not at all.
2021 is the ideal environment for such polarizing candidates to thrive.
The quiet intelligence and formidable bipartisanship demonstrated by politicians like former Senator Bob Dole is hard to cover in a three-minute read; hard to condense into a pithy headline or the limited characters of a tweet. They don’t indulge in “snark” (sometimes called “rudeness”) or insult their colleagues on Twitter.
Ad-clicks have come to dominate the news cycle- so anyone willing to insult their colleagues on Twitter is red-carpet welcome at any major media outlet, any time of the day or night. If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone important, go sit by CNN. Ad-clicks are shaping our lives, society, and the national conversation about a variety of topics in ways we are only beginning to understand.
In this environment, the question of whether media coverage of the Biden Administration has been fair and impartial is the wrong one.
Of course the media isn’t being fair or impartial to President Joe Biden; media companies don’t exist to sell the public on the policies of the Biden Administration. They don’t exist to tell the truth to the American people or preserve Democracy, either.
Media companies exist to sell themselves.
Social media and the Information Age have created the perfect environment for palace intrigues and Machiavellian power struggles to rise and eventually block out everything else.
Backstabbing makes great news fodder for the 24-hour news cycle soap opera, which is always hungry for more, and more salacious, material to run up the flagpole. Fortune and glory are always one viral story away.
For a book deal, a lucrative stint hosting cable news, 15 minutes of fame- what wouldn’t people do? “Telling tales out of school” has never been more incentivized. True or not, it doesn’t matter; this is the court of public opinion, not a fair trial.
Whether or not the disgruntled Harris staffer who was CNN’s main source for its recent hit-piece on Vice President Kamala Harris was really Symone Sanders, who just became the latest Harris staffer to depart, doesn’t really matter.
If she was, Sanders was hardly alone. The journalist sharks are always circling Capitol Hill, always looking for a juicy tidbit to parlay into tomorrow’s headline. Everyone’s staffers and former staffers are going to dish the dirt on them sooner or later, over a long enough timeline, for the right price- provided they can find or invent enough dirt to dish.
The current political environment is the ideal medium for growing discordant notes until they become deafening crescendos of outrage.
Vying or weak powers in other nations use the same tactics to whip up the mob into a frenzy whenever they need cover for something. It is merely a question of selective information, strategically presented as to cause maximum impact. It’s a kind of chess game that the American people, as well as the elected leaders who represent them, were always doomed to lose.
That die was cast the moment mainstream media outlets traded their objectivity and credibility for all those eyeballs eager for Trump, Trump, and more Trump.
With the plug finally pulled on that overflowing bathtub, what else would media companies do? They need new villains, new palace intrigues, different angles and novel new outrages.
Doomsday prophets, like stand-up comedians, can’t keep delivering the same amount of impact with the same old material.
Nuanced coverage of the problems we are facing as a nation may look like deferential pandering to a nation grown used to tabloid headlines and an over-emphasis on the very worst news, all day, every day.
Until we can resist the temptation to click on the offerings of journalists, media personalities, and opinion writers competing to deliver the most extreme, polarizing outtake on current events, the media beatings will continue until ad revenue improves to Trumpian levels.
Politicians like Sen. Bob Dole, public servants concerned with gentility rather than generating sentiment on Twitter, are a vanishing breed. They care about America more than partisanship. They care about making a difference more than making a splash.
Ad-clicks don’t favor moderate, sensible policy experts willing to work across the aisle to get things done- as indeed is the only way to get anything done in Washington.
But politicians like Bob Dole will be sorely missed.
Senator Dole was a veteran, a gentleman and a hero; a public servant in the purest sense; a great compromiser and conciliator. The nation is poorer without his leadership and example and the political landscape grows that much more dystopian without reasonable voices like his.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)