Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Rachel Maddow's new show.

I recommend that you check out Rachel Maddow's new show on MSNBC. She's got a good take on politics and issues. She doesn't skimp on the important stuff, but she's a spoonful of sugar to make the hard issues easier to take. She makes no bones about her liberal viewpoint, but at the same time, she's fair. We all have biases, but it's still important to be fair. It premiered last night, and I really enjoyed it.

Oddly, my favorite segment of the inaugural show was toward the end, when she talked with Pat Buchanan (announcing with a witty little note on the bottom of the screen, "It's Pat!") I've long been aware of Pat Buchanan, and I find his politics galling, and I tend to feel a little dispeptic whenever I know he's about to speak. And I felt no different when he came on Rachel's show.

See, for the past couple of decades I've been listening to political commentators. I started in the late 1980s, when Rush Limbaugh was still a hot property and new on the scene. I of course never liked him and still don't. But Rush's show was a smash hit, where his brash, thuggish style would frequently stomp all over liberals and moderates, claiming to be part of a balanced debate where no such thing was going on.

Through the 1990s, liberals got sucker-punched all the time. This kept happening in the media until Keith Olbermann came along. Sure, old liberal war horses like Phil Donahue were still around, and while I like Donahue's measured, thoughtful manner, the fact is that Donahue was a harp seal at a time when the waters were filling up with sharks. The tougher, scrappier liberals like Dick Cavett and Gore Vidal were either old or dead, and not able to command audiences on the national scene anymore.

So whenever it happens that a conservative or a wing nut is getting ready to make a vicious and outlandish claim, I figure we liberals are going to feel the beatdown again, so I might as well brace myself. Whenever I see Pat Buchanan talking, I seem to find myself screaming, "You! Mika! Eugene! Whoever! Hit that rat bastard back! Don't take this crap!" I felt that same old feeling tonight on Rachel's show, but with one major difference: when Pat made the ridiculous statements, I clenched up, but Rachel punched back deftly, poised like a martial artist ballerina with a pouch full of throwing stars in reserve. She made it clear that she was up for a conversation, but also that she was not up for taking any crap from Pat Buchanan without properly vetting it, and that she'd likely treat any other frothy-mouthed culture warrior the same way.

God bless you, Rachel Maddow. If Pat declares that there have to be culture wars, I'm glad you and I are in the same corner—and I'm gladder still that you can throw a punch a hell of a lot better than I can.

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At Monday, September 15, 2008 at 6:46:00 AM EDT, Blogger Alexandra said...

I have a question. There is a lot of information outlining Palin's management style ie appointments similar to Bush (Agriculture chief a crony who "loves cows"). And there are just gobs of questions about her and the selection process and inconsistencies and lies coming from the McCain campaign all floating around in Rachel's show,Hardball, Countdown etc. and in the NY Times editorial pages, but to have any effect on undecideds its got to reach the front pages. How to help do that? I agree that Obama should not be attacking Palin but someone's got to and its got to resonate

At Monday, September 15, 2008 at 9:30:00 AM EDT, Blogger Kurt Kaletka said...

Alexandra—I share your sentiment: the truth about Palin's shaky background is hidden right there in plain sight, but somehow, it's getting overlooked. My favorite political publications (and even some of my not-so-favorite ones) are covering what a callow extremist Sarah Palin is, but still, a lot of people aren't getting the message. And as unarmed they are with facts, they still get to vote, whether or not they're making an informed choice.

So what can we do? We're going to have to take on our duties as citizens. We'll have to do it the slow way, like back in the days before TV and the internet, when word of mouth was the fastest way to spread the word about a candidate. We need to talk to our friends, relatives and neighbors about this election. We need to make sure the truth is floating around at all times. You and I might be prone to tune in to Rachel Maddow or read the paper every day, but too many people won't do that. We've got to get them engaged.

And when we're doing this, we need to make sure their interests are addressed when we're addressing them. I mean, job creation, a balanced budget and a diplomatic take on foreign policy are very important to me, but not everyone has the same priorities. Maybe someone's more concerned about education, and what the Intelligent Design people might do if they're given a freer hand in schools. Maybe it's gas prices they're most concerned about. Maybe it's terrorism. Maybe it's our Israel policy. Consider what it means to have people like Sarah Palin and John McCain in the White House, what it would mean regarding those issues specifically. Get them to understand what it means.

They might not agree with you right away, or ever. But look at it this way: if they don't agree with you right away, they might come around; and if they never agree with you, at least you were polite, so they won't harbor resentment toward your beliefs—resentment that could fester into support for McCain/Palin.

You probably won't reach as many people as Rachel Maddow does, but that's okay. If we all do our part, we'll get this country moving in the right direction, and maybe we'll move the needle enough to keep the Republicans from getting a third term.

Remember how much the Republicans mocked civic engagement at their convention this year. They thrive on people not believing they can make a difference. But the belief that the individual can make a difference by talking to his or her neighbors one conversation at a time is the idea this country was founded on. If you do this, it may or may not stop the Republican ticket this year, but it'll sow the seeds for the future. I believe that's what citizenship is all about.


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