The Media’s Quadrennial Eclipse

Whatever will he do next? The cable newscasters cry, eager to ply their audiences with more of the drip, drip that keeps advertisers hooked. If you’re feeling withdrawal from Disaster Don’s tweets, there are pictures of his golf cart and non-news of his non-lawsuits. And Joe, oh Joe, and the next four years. How will he handle the world and the pandemic and the heartbreak we call our economy? How will the Dow Jones react? And did you know the Bidens will be bringing to DC the White House’s first-ever rescue pet?

All this how’s-he-doing coverage is par for the course as we transition to the next administration, but someone’s missing from this picture of our politics. It’s us.

Mostly gone from the scene already are the men and women who, for a few weeks this year, were interrupted over breakfast in Iowa or bothered over burgers in Pittsburgh by reporters curious to know what they think.

It’s the quadrennial eclipse. Every election season, our picture of power momentarily opens up to include something resembling a society before it snaps back to narrow in on a few so-called “power brokers” in Washington and on Wall Street.

It’s that eclipsing of the demos that leads me to think that neo-liberalism’s not dead yet. Neoliberalism as you’ll recall, is that governing theory that came of age with Reagan and Thatcher by which society is seen purely as a market and the needs of humans are second to profit. Some—progressives mostly—have started saying that after Covid, Trump and climate catastrophe, it’s in trouble.

There’s certainly reason to believe voters want a shift. Look across the country at the many ballot initiatives that won majority support for raising minimum wages and taxing-over the top wealth. Seventy-eight percent of Oregonian voters approved reining in corporate spending in elections, and 57% of voters in Colorado demanded workers get a fair chance to earn paid time off.

Votes like that suggest that a majority of Americans might be ready for a change in priorities, not just some new people in government.

But neoliberalism didn’t just distort our economy, it dismembered our picture of our democracy. We need coverage of people as active citizens, not just as consumers. Reporting on society as if social life mattered, not just the course of the market. We need reporting on democracy that includes the actual demos. And that begins with the media.

We’re coming up on Giving Tuesday. How about you take a look around and support the media that sees you back?

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Laura Flanders interviews forward-thinking people about the key questions of our time on The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally syndicated radio and television program also available as a podcast. A contributing writer to The Nation, Flanders is also the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species.  She is the recipient of a 2019 Izzy Award for excellence in independent journalism, the Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award for advancing women’s and girls’ visibility in media and a 2020 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship for her reporting and advocacy for public media.