I am a giant fan of National Public Radio. My staple most mornings is to listen to NPR’s “Morning Edition” broadcast while traveling in my car while running errands.
I learn more from that broadcast than I ever learn from the morning drive-time idiocy I hear on commercial radio channels. For instance, I learned this week that “Morning Edition” has turned 40 years of age.
Its first broadcast occurred the morning after the Iranian militants captured those 53 Americans at the embassy in Tehran.
But during the discussion of “Morning Edition’s” 40th birthday, I heard a fascinating discussion of how politics has changed since NPR first went on the air with its morning talk show.
It came from Ron Elving, a contributor to NPR, who noted that in 1979, Congress was full of “liberal Republicans” and “conservative Democrats” who liked each other’s company. These days, according to Elving, both major political parties have been hijacked by ideologues on both ends of the spectrum: liberals are now called “progressives” and occupy much of the Democrats’ congressional caucus; conservatives have done the same thing to the Republican’s congressional caucus.
What’s more, neither side wants to commune with the other. Members of Congress, particularly those on the right, bunk in their offices at night. They choose to make some sort of goofy political statement, rather than becoming involved socially with their colleagues in their own party, let alone those in the other party.
Politics has become a contact sport, the NPR talkers said to each other, lamenting the demise of a kinder, gentler time in D.C.’s political life.
So it has gone over the past four decades.
NPR itself has become a whipping child for those on the right, who accuse the network of harboring a sort of “liberal bias,” in my view is a creation of those who want the media to present the news with their own fiery bias. NPR takes great pain to ensure that it presents the news straight down the middle lane.
As I listened to the “Morning Edition” talkers this week reminisce about how much politics has changed over the past 40 years, I found myself longing — yet again! — for a return to the way it used to be inside the halls of power.
It well might return if Americans awaken on Election Day 2020 to the damage that the politics of resentment and anger is doing to our public institutions.