Bernie Sanders made news Tuesday night simply by his choice of messenger for a town hall meeting. This speaks volumes about the sorry state of America’s political discourse.
The Vermont socialist, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, made an appearance on Fox News, which operates as a counterweight to the left-leaning perspectives that dominate most other major news outlets. This caused heart palpitations among partisans on both the left and right.
Some liberals slammed Bernie for turning up on the network they loathe and accuse of being a mouthpiece for the Trump administration. Their counterparts on the right were aghast that Fox provided a platform to Sen. Sanders to spread his collectivist fertilizer.
Both these objections are utter balderdash. How can you effectively form consensus and expand your support if you ignore a wide swath of the electorate? And how better to rebut one’s political foes than immersing oneself in their arguments?
Back in the day, before social media, candidates seeking national political office would, in general, seize any opportunity to deliver their messages to as many audiences — even potentially hostile ones — as possible. This helped foster tolerance and temper extremism by exposing voters and candidates to alternative opinions and ideas.
Today, however, candidates and constituents prefer the comfortable cocoon of sycophants and flatterers to the rough and tumble dialog that characterizes public policy debate.
This retreat to the echo chamber is bipartisan, but seems to be particularly prevalent on the left. Witness how the Democratic National Committee in March announced it would exclude Fox News from hosting any of the party’s presidential debates because it doesn’t like the network’s perceived political slant. This aversion to being challenged filters down to local and state races, too. With one exception, no Democrat running for the Nevada Legislature or statewide office last year had the courage to accept an invitation to parry with the Review-Journal editorial board.
What does it say about candidates’ confidence in their message when they avoid venues in which they must defend their positions in favor of appearances packed with fawning supporters clapping like seals on their every scripted utterance? Yes, consultants and handlers have tried to wall off and choreograph candidates for decades. But relishing the challenge of a skeptical audience used to be a prerequisite for statesmanship. Today, the lazy path of least resistance prevails.
Give Sen. Sanders credit for bucking the DNC and bringing his message to Fox. Love his politics or hate them, his willingness to mix it up and defend his views was in refreshing contrast to most of his peers — and that’s a pitiful commentary on the current state of affairs.