Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin left her audience at the National Tea Party convention with a memorable piece of advice: Remain leaderless.
Quite an interesting punch line when the recent actions by the leadership of both major political parties have left little doubt as to the consequences of her platitude.
One of the more defining events in Washington in the past 12 months may have been the sudden snowfall last week that blanketed the nation’s capital with two feet of snow. Even more came later.
The bureaucrats went home. The politicians stayed home.
The country was safe as the storm created an extended period of time to temporarily close the partisan divide that has left the health of the U.S. economy and other issues in limbo. But it took an act of God to call a timeout to the stalemate.
The other interesting Washington footnote from inclement weather is that “non-essential” government employees are asked to stay home. When more than 90 percent are deemed non-essential, including many who reside on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in the nation’s Capitol, the math says it all.
Non-essential may be an appropriate label to attach to the business conducted throughout the federal government to date. Success appears to be measured by doing less and blaming others.
The media have to resist the temptation to reward those who obstruct while ignoring efforts to move the country out of the Great Recession, create opportunities for jobs, institute policies to prevent financial meltdown and even find solutions to other pressing issues.
The opportunity to address at least the structural flaws of the health care delivery system in the United States probably is gone. Overreach in health care or a first-year agenda by the Obama administration that resembled a super-super-sized fast food meal contributed to the total breakdown.
The media passed on the opportunity to point out that a Congress that is geared toward re-election, whether to a two- or six-year term, has never been able to handle more than one issue at a time. Often it is a challenge for Congress to handle a single issue. Lawmakers prove that point frequently. At the next town hall meeting with a member of Congress, when the representative or senator states support for a policy change, ask him or her to share one vote that broke with the party position and attempted to bridge the political divide.
As the media have given ground in Washington by shedding the ranks of journalists who hold politicians accountable, there has been little effort by others in the “new media” to fill the void.
For those mainstream or traditional media outlets that are coming out of the financial doldrums, more emphasis needs to be placed on the role of holding elected officials accountable for what they say, how they vote, and whether their priority is moving the country forward or maintaining party loyalty.
Tough choices have been made by many news organizations over the past 18 months, but those decisions should not limit the ability to share with voters who elect those who represent them at the local, state and national levels.
Leaderless is not a viable option for those who are empowered to or want to affect those who shape the economic future of the country.
The media may not have the answers, but a media voice holds the politicians, regardless of stripe, accountable for promises made and broken.
The election of a Republican to the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts was more than denying the Democrats a 60-vote filibuster-proof majority. The Democrats demonstrated the inability to use their power by auctioning off Medicaid to the highest bidder for a health care vote. The Massachusetts outcome was more than a shift from Democratic control to Republican groundswell, since the new senator is the creation of independent-minded voters.
The media have the opportunity once more to avoid the political potshots of the day that fill the airspace on cable television but do not address the country’s problems.
Time will tell whether lessons were learned, or perhaps being leaderless is the correct approach.
To reach Tom Griscom, call 423-757-6472 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.