This Newsweek cover piece is the starting gun of the elite pushback against what could be a new progressive era. Penned by one of the most reliable peddlers of Establishment talking points, Jon Meacham, it ignores a wealth of easy-to-find empirical public opinion data showing the country's progressive majority on most major issues, and instead essentially argues that a President Obama will have to govern America as a slightly more moderate Ronald Reagan. To Meacham, insulated in his chattering class world of dinner parties and television green rooms, America of 2008 is the same as America circa 1980 -- even as the latest presidential and congressional polls suggest the possibility of a massive progressive landslide.
From a pure journalism perspective, it is stunning that the editor-in-chief of a supposed "news" magazine is writing cover pieces that read like cheap Republican Party direct mail, and ignore empirical data. Then again, "objectivity" in the media today is defined as worshiping the status quo, denigrating popular uprisings, and serving as stenographers to power, celebrity and money. So in that sense, this Newsweek piece is -- nauseatingly -- "objective" (and yet, Meacham then wonders why readers prefer the far more empirical Economist to the increasingly unreadable - and strident - conservative agitprop of Newsweek).
The question will be how much this kind of smug propaganda emanating from media megaphones in New York City and Washington, D.C. will impact a President Obama (who will - at least officially - be in an office that is supposed to represent more than the public opinion of Manhattan cocktail parties and Bethesda fundraisers). I'm not sure - in the one chance I had to discuss these issues with Obama, he showed both strong progressive inclinations, but also hesitation to try to challenge the parameters created by the elite. And so you better believe that if we want "real change," it is going to require sustained pressure from the progressive movement - pressure that shows just how totally out of touch the Jon Meachams of the world really are.
That the elite onslaught is starting even before election day shows just how frightened the Establishment is of the electorate it purports to understand and speak for. And while people like Meacham are, indeed, out of touch -- let's give them credit: they seem to get that the potential for significant tectonic policy shifts are very real. That's why they are digging in even earlier than usual -- and why the day after election day is when the fight for the future of the country is going to go into overdrive.
UPDATE -- ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: One additional thought -- on a personal note as a progressive and a journalist, I find Meacham's piece incredibly depressing (which is, of course, the piece's desired effect on progressives), not because it's in any way accurate, but because it really shows just how conservatism and elitism is so utterly woven into the media -- to the point where basic facts are simply tossed aside in favor of status quo-serving narratives. Reading a piece like this makes me wonder if there really is any place for progressive media voices at all -- that is, it makes me wonder if all the work I put in scratching and clawing away is pointless. I don't think it is -- but man, reading a piece like that is just demoralizing.
reprinted with permission