For months I’ve felt it. My frustration grows each time I wade through the day’s news, looking to learn about the critical policy discussions going on in our nation’s Capitol. Time and again, what I find instead are a gutful of stories about political intrigue and scandal. Most recently, of course, they focus on efforts to impeach President Trump.

Don’t get me wrong; of course the people need to know about government scandal. I understand that impeachment is a big deal. But does it require that all other government work grind to a halt? That is certainly the impression one gets after reading a typical newspaper.

For instance, in Wednesday’s Washington Post, an eye-glazing six news stories focused on the effort to impeach Trump. And that’s before counting two op-eds.

I decided that I needed to learn what else was happening — if anything. I wanted to find out whether the lack of reporting on lawmaking was a reflection of reality. I know we talk about government gridlock and a Congress that fails to address the nation’s problems. But can it be that our elected lawmakers are literally doing nothing but investigating the President?

Finding out what’s happening at the Capitol is remarkably easy these days. Anyone with internet access can go right to Congress’ website for a listing of committee hearings and bills scheduled for debate. When I did so this week, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the people we pay an approximate $174,000 each year are, in fact, doing things.

Some of these things do get the occasional mention in the press. But not many. This week, for instance, the House has been discussing how to deal with federal land in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. The Senate considered a bill to increase the maximum penalty for minors convicted of stalking. But if media coverage is any measure, none of these issues bears even a fraction of the importance of the partisan political battle playing out on the main stages of Washington, D.C.

So why the overwhelming focus on the behavior of politicians instead of policy? After all, the United States is said to be a “nation of laws,” and not a “nation of men.” If that is still our ideal, then surely the media should be helping citizens focus more on proposals for law than on leaked text messages and phone calls.

At this point I can almost feel my more cynical readers rolling their eyes at me. They’re thinking, “Of course. The liberal news media hates President Trump and can’t let a day go by without dragging him through any mud they can find. Are you really surprised?”

Well, maybe “surprised” isn’t the right word. Maybe what I’m feeling is disappointment. Disappointment in a culture that seeks out scandal and feeds on it. Disappointment in the politicians who so readily provide it. Disappointment in a press that does nothing to elevate our definition of “news.” And disappointment, most of all, in an American citizenry that allows itself to be distracted by the pettiness of politics instead of engaged in the content of public policy.

Over 30 years ago, Neil Postman warned us that the primary danger we confronted was not of becoming like the society of George Orwell’s 1984, but rather of becoming like that of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. As Postman summarizes, “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.” In other words, Huxley feared that we would become a people obsessed with the trivial.

We’re a culture drowning in on-screen entertainment. It’s hard for congressional policy debates to compete with the entertainment value of “Game of Thrones” or our friends’ latest Facebook posts. So some major media outlets seem to have ascribed to, “if we can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Thus we hear salacious details about dramatic, divisive events in politics — but little about the meat of public policy. This trend is gravely damaging to our Republic.

It takes a lot of work to be an engaged citizen. It requires that we know enough about the substance of public policy issues to form opinions based on reason. It requires us to choose and hold public officials accountable for representing those reasoned opinions well.

LexisNexis projects that next year Congress will consider approximately 1,100 bills. Regardless of what the media does, let’s make it a point to learn what some of them are actually about.

Rita Dunaway lives in Harrisonburg and is the author of "Restoring America's Soul: Advancing Timeless Conservative Principles in a Wayward Culture." Her column appears on thestream.org.

(12) comments

newshound

The news media's impeachment obsession harkens me back decades ago when my boss complained about the I.T.I. Effect ... "Informing the Ignorant." Mainly, the "informing" contained twisted and biased misinformation to intentionally poison the well! A tactic Used in business too.

hbdansby

If you want to know who to blame for the distraction from the impeachment inquiry, look to Donal Trump. The guy has been a loose cannon of lies, insults, policy disasters, and efforts to undermine our sacred institutions of government. Look also to the gutless congressional republican sycophants, and conservative talking heads that hold themselves out as newsmen. And what I say here is not even hyperbole. So, yes, blame Trump and the republicans for this distraction. Trump lies so much that when he is speaking, the listener is constantly evaluating whether there is an value to what he is saying, except to use it to guess that the opposite is true.

DeftCurmudgeon

Durham is coming...

newshound

"Sacred institutions"? Of government? [censored]

prodigalson

Newshound, embedded in Mr. Dansby's comments are one of the main differences between liberals and conservatives. Liberals have allowed worship of God to be supplanted by worship of self, and by extension, big government. This being the case, they consider the government "sacred". There is further evidence of this fact on a different thread, where Mr. Dansby tried to promote the idea that because the standard deduction was increased in the tax reform law that President Trump signed at the end of 2017, taxpayers would actually pay more in income taxes because they couldn't itemize their deductions. When it was pointed out to him that the increase in the standard deduction actually gave a higher deduction than the deductions that they had previously been able to itemize, thus giving them a lower tax bill, not a higher tax bill, he went on to complain about the fact that with the new tax law, the government can't manipulate the economic activity of taxpayers the way it could before, because everyone gets a higher standard deduction, and can spend their own money the way they want. And so, in a nutshell, Mr. Dansby's problem with the new tax code is not that taxpayers pay more (the evidence is clear that they do not), but that the government controls less of what taxpayers do with the money that they save. The climate change hoax is no different. The real goal of all liberals is for the government to be in control of everything, because they worship the government.

newshound

Yep it's sad how the libs kneel to the altar of big Government.

DANT

prodigalson, hbdunceby has gone off the deep end with jealousy over President Trump and the Republican party in general! He has seen with his own eyes the great work both have done to help the poor and middle-class and it makes him crazy. He just doesn't want to admit how corrupt the party he follows is, so, he willingly falls right in with their lies and corruption. In other words he would rather continue with the corrupt and even do their bidding than admit he's wrong!

prodigalson

Great post Dant. I agree.

Whalebroc

“Sacred institutions of government”. That statement explains a lot about your constant zeal in the global warming promotion (among other big govt agenda items). They could waste trillions of dollars, put millions of people out of work, be wrong on so many of their theories and predictions, tax people into oblivion, etc,; and if the EPA or NOAA said it was for X reason, you would support them to the bitter end. It’s just like a cult or extremist religion.

prodigalson

Amen to that Whalebroc! Great post!

LVW

There was wall to wall impeachment coverage in the media of Bill Clinton too. People just love stuff like that.

prodigalson

Rita, there are those of us who do pay attention to what is really happening, and see through the smoke screen that the news media feeds us day after day. We understand, for example, the outstanding jobs report that came out yesterday, which showed that not only were more jobs created in October than the "experts" had predicted, but also included a healthy upward revision in the number of jobs that were created in September and August. It showed an unemployment rate of 3.6%, and an uptick in the labor participation rate, which means that more people are actually out looking for jobs than they were previously. We understand that during the past 3 years, not only has President Trump appointed 2 outstanding conservative Supreme Court justices, he has also appointed well over 100 federal judges at lower levels; judges that will affect public policy in a positive direction for many years to come. Conservatives understand this. This is why we voted for Trump in the first place.

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