For years and years, anyone who tuned in to America's Sunday morning political chat shows was invited into a world of cloistered elites whose understanding of the impacts of public policy ended at the bank of the Potomac River. It was a realm in which a massive unemployment crisis that swept across post-crash America was only perceived to affect a group of affluent political celebrities and their electoral hopes. "Will the terrible Senator What's-His-Nuts lose his ability to go on naming post offices after his cronies' children, or will he be forced to accept six-figure salaries on K Street or through meaningless board positions at useless foundations?"
There is, let's say, a disconnect between these shows and normal human Americans. So it's not surprising that normal human Americans have all but tuned out these shows, leaving them with a teensy audience of viewers who are either close to Capitol Hill or close to death (sort of the same concept, in some ways). But now, all of the sudden and quite unexpectedly, one of these shows has discovered that there is, like, this whole country called "America," and has decided to go and try to talk to it. From a press release I received Friday morning from NBC News:
"Meet the Press" is taking to the streets of hometowns across the country to uncover the real consequences of political decision-making in Washington, DC, and how it affects the day-to-day lives of Americans. In each Sunday's "Meeting America" feature, NBC News Correspondent Kevin Tibbles takes the political conversation outside of the Beltway and into cities and communities where the issues debated by politicians and pundits on "Meet the Press" are hitting home.
This feature actually launched last week. Still, glory be, y'all. After six years of watching these shows and making this very criticism, one of them -- the worst one of them, no less! -- has decided to give this "let's dispel our ignorance" thing a try. I will naturally take credit for this. I fought "Meet The Press," and I won -- a little.
So now, "Meet The Press" will be endeavoring to "meet America." That will be an interesting collision for these hidebound weirdos who have heretofore remained bunkered in their Beltway redoubt. They'll be meeting people who've gone unassisted in what amounts to our post-crash "recovery." People who cannot comprehend why Washington is so focused on adjusting 20-year fiscal curves as opposed to getting America back to work. People who don't actually think that gutting earned benefit programs like Medicare and Social Security constitute political "bravery." If "Meet The Press" doesn't experience some sense of intense culture shock, meeting the actual people of actual America for the first time, then "Meet The Press" isn't paying attention.
So what does "Meet The Press" hope to achieve? Here's the relevant part of the press release (which I am scrutinizing, I think, a lot more closely than its author ever suspected was possible):
"Our goal is to translate what's going on in Washington, DC, and show the real impact on constituents across the country," said Rob Yarin, "Meet the Press" executive producer. "Politics isn't just about politicians -- it's about real people and real life outside the halls of the West Wing or Capitol Hill, and 'Meeting America' allows us to give a national platform to voices we don't normally hear from on these issues."
I am down with the "show the real impact" of public policy decisions on "constituents across the country" part. Hallelujah to finally acknowledging that there are "real people" that exist "outside the halls of the West Wing or Capitol Hill." And yay to giving these people a "national platform."
But here's some free advice, "Meet The Press." Your job actually isn't "translating" what's happening in Washington to the people in the hinterlands. Your job is afflicting Beltway elites with the perspective of people beyond the bubble in which those elites reside. Best to remember that the world needs more Beltwaysplaining like it needs pancreatic cancer. You guys have the opportunity to try to be Patrick McGoohan's character from "The Prisoner." Don't waste it!
Then we come to the part of the press release that shakes my confidence a little bit:
Employing creative photography techniques, "Meeting America" is produced to give the viewer a literal birds-eye view into these communities and paint an intimate portrait of how real Americans are addressing the issues.
Here's an idea: How about you spare us "creative photography techniques" entirely. Don't turn this into "Meet The Press Instagrams the eroding hopes of middle class America." Just go get actual news stories, for the first time in over a decade.
Also, I should point out that you probably don't want to "give the viewer a literal birds-eye view" of anything. Check the most common definition of the word "literal" before you guys hit the road. And do not give us a figurative birds-eye view "into these communities," either. You may not realize this, but this is what you've already been doing, and it has sucked.
According to today's press release, here's is where "Meet The Press" is going to "Meet America" next:
This Sunday, April 6, Tibbles will visit Steele City, Nebraska -- a town unfamiliar to most, but a vital piece of the Keystone XL pipeline project. Home to the transfer station where the Keystone XL pipeline and Cushing Extension would connect, Steele City hopes for a boost in the local economy and jobs, but at what cost?
Sounds neat! Hey, apropos of nothing in particular, I'll point out another bubble that surrounds "Meet The Press." Last week, "Meet The Press" was sponsored by Siemens, General Electric, and Morgan Stanley, among others. Siemens currently has a $200 million contract with TransCanada "to supply the Keystone Pipeline project with electrical equipment." General Electric has played a role in the Keystone Pipeline's safety inspections. And the China Investment Corp., which along with partners "control 29 percent of Sunshine Oilsands Ltd" (which in turn controls "7 percent of the total amount of leases in the Athabasca tar sands region") also own "151 million shares of Morgan Stanley (or 7.8 percent of the company)."
Hope this coverage of Steel City is okay with these sponsors! (But not too okay, obviously.)