If you follow the mainstream coverage of the economic issues being considered in Washington, I want you to notice how much the media is playing up the two-party story. For example, most of the news reporting on the so-called stimulus bill is not about the bill itself, but about the Republican opposition to it. To make this two-party story seem credible, they don’t mention that the Republican position on the bill is incoherent or that most of the Republicans in Congress aren’t involved in the bill at all.
The news media is focusing much more on the Republicans now than it did on the Democrats a few years ago when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. Is it that the news media likes Republicans better than it likes Democrats? Not at all. The news media likes all affluent viewers or readers of their news reports, or anyone who will support their advertisers. But the news media is pushing the two-party story harder now precisely because the story is so weak. If they didn’t hammer away at that story, and repeat the cliché of the political pendulum every day, no one would pay any attention — and for the media, that is the worst possible result.
The irony of this is that the reality is more interesting than the hyped-up story you see on the news. By voluntarily disengaging from the legislative process, the Republicans are giving the United States an initial look at one-party government. This is what we are likely to see for many years to come. I am sure the Republicans will eventually decide to go back to work, but they continue to move away from the mainstream and figure to lose ground in future elections because of that. We may have to wait until the country opens up the process to minor parties and independent candidates, or a new political party gains enough traction on the political left to challenge the Democrats. For now, though, this is a good time to see how one-party government can work.