Journalists can disagree and remain civil – Government Shutdown Edition

Last weekend, the U.S. government shut down for three days.  There was a lot of debate, especially in the partisan press, about what it all meant, and who the winners and losers were.

And we’ve reached a point, especially if you watch cable news or listen to talk radio, that any debate about this will involve lots of shouting and stomping about. But you know, it doesn’t have to be that way.

For example, look at this article:

  • The Daily 202: Seven takeaways from the failed Democratic shutdown
    This is a daily newsletter from James Hohmann at the Washington Post that usually contains a lead essay on the most important story of the day followed by a roundup of other consequential stories.  It’s almost always one of my first reads of the day.

    On Tuesday of this week, Hohmann led with his analysis of seven key issues from last weekend’s government shutdown:

    • “The Resistance will struggle when it tries to replicate the tactics of the tea party movement.”
    • “Senate Democrats do not really trust Mitch McConnell. They just needed an excuse to cave.”
    • “Moderates flexed their muscles.”
    • “Many House conservatives remain determined to pigeonhole any DACA fix that could pass the Senate.”
    • “This dynamic will put Paul Ryan between a rock (the establishment) and a hard place (the grass roots).”
    • “McConnell won the messaging war because Trump (mostly) stayed out of his way.”
    • “Dreamers (who can’t vote) feel betrayed, but Latinos (who can) will probably still turn out for Democrats anyway because of how much they hate Trump.”

      All in all, a pretty good analysis of the shutdown from a non-partisan news analyst.

That article generated responses from a couple of thoughtful, though partisan, journalists. But the interesting thing was that these  journalists, who have a distinct point of view, could still remain wedded to reporting and analysis based on reality, not partisan hackery.

  • Does the Left Lose because It’s Too Civil?
    This is from writer David French from the conservative National Review (founded by William F. Buckley), who argues logically, politely and emphatically with a point Hohmann made that perhaps progressives lost because they were being “too nice” in their battles with conservatives.  Needless to say, French isn’t having this. But he responds to it without insulting Hohmann nor assuming that everyone who disagrees with him is an idiot.
  • Stop Whining, Move Forward
    This analysis comes from Josh Marshall, founder of the long-running progressive news site Talking Points Memo. He basically disagrees with Hohmann that the Democrats failed with their short shutdown.  Instead, he suggests they did the most they could from a limited position of power. But like French (with whom he would not agree on a lot politically), he responds to Hohmann without insulting either the journalist, nor people who disagree with him.  Instead, he focuses on tactics and policy.

If you take the time to read these three articles (well, the opening essay of The Daily 202.  The whole newsletter is long…) you may come away with an understanding of what some of the issues surrounding the shutdown were, and how people from varying political points of view saw them. Which for my money would make the world a better place.

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