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Susan Madrak Headshot

The Thurston Howells of the Pundit Class

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It was election night at the Radnor Hotel, and one of the Hill rats I was talking to said he figured the press would be on the side of the Democrats now that we had control of the House and Senate again.

"Are you crazy?" I said. "If anything, they'll be worse. This is high school, and that never changes. They're high school geeks who waited all their lives for the chance to get even."

I hate to beat a dying horse (it's all too easy), but the class divide is also a major part of why newspaper circulation continues to drop like a brick. When you don't have compelling economic forces in your own life, it's hard to see them as important in anyone else's. And if you truly don't understand how political issues relate to your readers, they will inevitably go elsewhere.

See, it's not a game to us. It's our lives.

As regular readers know, I'm a big union supporter. But I have to say, I don't think newspaper unions have done much for the quality of newspapers these days. If anything, they've widened the class divide.

Think about what it's like in the non-unionized, private sector world: Most of us started paying health insurance co-pays thirty years ago. Through IPOs, selloffs and mergers, we've seen our jobs downgraded, doubled up or disappear completely. We live in a state of chronic low-grade anxiety, knowing our jobs (such as they are) give us only a thin illusion of economic security. We're lucky to get 3% raises if we get any at all, and then we're told to be grateful we got anything.

Vacations? In our world, one week after you've been there for six months. Two weeks after a year - but hey, what are the odds you'll still have a job by then? It taps out at two weeks if you're lucky enough to stay employed, but you have to use it up by the end of the year. Problem is, you don't have enough people in your department to cover your ass if you take time off, and if you don't cover your ass, you might lose your job.

Compare this with the top-of-Maslow's-triangle life of your typical Beltway pundit. No wonder they think the economy's doing fine - everyone they know is doing fine! Fully-paid insurance? Christ, no wonder these bloviators think we can "solve" the healthcare crisis by raising co-pays - they don't have any. It's all too theoretical to them.

I do feel bad for the journalists who are finally waking up to the scary notion that life as they know it is over. Change always sucks (take it from someone whose coat of arms reads, Oh no, not another fucking growth experience! Only in Latin).

But they convinced themselves they didn't have survival worries because they're special, and deserve special treatment.

They're so infatuated with the sound of their own cocktail party chatter, they can't hear the train whistle coming down the tracks.