By Bob Barter, Contributing Writer
Two pieces in particular caught my eye in the Feb. 2 edition and I would like to interject a comment if possible.
I first address Sofia Olsson’s article on our new political norm. I believe she is selectively applying Overton Window-analysis by only analyzing the present circumstance. While our current president certainly has made mockery of any call for more transparency from that office, he really has not had any greater effect on the Overton Window than what we have see in recent administration. The Obama administration, with its heavy-handed government programs in finance and health, caused much the same bulge to the left that Olsson sees on the right in this administration. Perhaps more dangerously, and in contention with Olsson’s assertion that these bulges give credence to and enhance the impact of the more moderate wings of the parties (the “new normal”), these bulges can eviscerate those moderates. This is seen by the large number of “moderate” Democrats (in 2010) and Republicans (in 2018) who have decided not to run again. It seems to me that this process is not new. Though it may be Pollyannaish of me, I like to think that the country likes the middle of the road and I hope the electorate will seek it out over the long run. In the short term, it will be telling if the 2018 Congressional elections result in a strong swing to the “radical” left; this would mirror the 2010 elections with 40-some new members who I believe Olsson would characterize as “extremist” conservatives. With regard to long term shifts, the antics of the president and the press (see next paragraph) are far less important than the legislation passed by those administrations. History will tell which of the cited administrations was most successful in that area.
My second timing criticism is with Charlie Keohane’s article on the “seven words” (wonderfully reminiscent of George Carlin’s lament). Keohane’s mistake in timing actually has more to do with a lack of patience. The old saw in the stock market is “Buy on the rumor, sell on the news.” Much the same applies here. The Washington Post reported that the CDC was told not to use the seven words in budgetary documents. The entire story was largely discredited by NPR a few days later (12/20/2017). The real story is much more mundane. Under the Obama administration, if you were looking for money, “climate change” “diversity” “science-based” “gender”, et. al. were all buzz words for successful application. These were hot-button words that got administration officials to open the coffers of tax-dollars and distribute them liberally. The use of these words will not have the same effect in this administration and career bureaucrats were letting the uninitiated know that. According to the NPR story, the meeting reported by the Post was led by a “career civil servant” and much of the substantiation for the story was attributed to anonymous sources; there is not one iota of evidence that this had anything to do with a Donald Trump-inspired edict. I can’t think of a weaker foundation for a news item and the Post was irresponsible for running it. For a myriad of reasons, media in this country has departed from its noble goals. It no longer matters what the basis for a story is, only that it supports the proper political agenda. This unhealthy phenomenon exists across the political spectrum. Keohane certainly has a right to opine about the administration’s attitude to the groups she feels have been offended but it weakens her argument when the factual basis for the story rests on such shaky ground.
Retired Acalanes Social Studies Teacher