Capacity and Confusion

Jackie Gingrich Cushman
|
Posted: Sep 28, 2017 12:01 AM
Capacity and Confusion

The combination of constant news, social media and a filterless firehose of opinion has created a deluge of political news, comment, and updates that can be overwhelming -- especially to Americans who are attempting to work, raise children, care for parents and take a little time every day simply to breathe. The places and spaces that used to provide community or respite from the drudgery of the daily grind -- sports teams, entertainers, and simple neighborly conversation -- are instead becoming part of the ongoing and seemingly never-ending political conversation.

The pace of political news is so fast, and the changes are so abrupt that many Americans may find it easier to dismiss the topic altogether rather than attempt to try to keep up.

At some point, our ability to consume political news could be overwhelmed by confusion.

Take this past week as an example. President Trump traveled to Alabama to rally for Luther Strange, who had been appointed to fill the seat left open when Jeff Sessions was appointed attorney general.

Strange, who had not been able to garner more than 50 percent of the vote in the Republican primary, was facing former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy S. Moore in the Republican runoff.

While in Alabama at the rally, Trump also aimed a direct hit on NFL players who had knelt during the national anthem.

Trump said that team owners should fire any players who expressed themselves that way. He also suggested that, if players kneel, fans should leave the stadium.

That will have an impact, he said. "I guarantee, things will stop."

This was followed by a weekend of sports coverage about whether players were kneeling or connecting their arms or not and whether fans were booing or not. The result: a lot of coverage about the political aspects of their activities rather than about their sports prowess.

For those who thought an afternoon of viewing Sunday football would provide a respite from a week packed with endless political coverage -- well, they were wrong.

On Tuesday, Trump continued to encourage Alabama voters to vote for Strange, tweeting that he "has been shooting up in the Alabama polls since my endorsement."

After Strange lost the Republican primary to Moore, earlier tweets from Trump praising Strange were deleted from his account (makes you wonder if he does it himself or if an aide does) and Trump offered his congratulations to Moore, with a nod to Strange. "Congratulations to Roy Moore on his Republican Primary win in Alabama. Luther Strange started way back & ran a good race. Roy, WIN in Dec!"

Wednesday morning, Trump moved forward tweeting, "Spoke to Roy Moore of Alabama last night for the first time. Sounds like a really great guy who ran a fantastic race. He will help to #MAGA!"

This week, the push by the Senate GOP to repeal Obamacare has once again failed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled the vote when its defeat was evident. Trump pivoted to his view that an upcoming repeal victory was in the works by tweeting on Wednesday, "With one Yes vote in hospital & very positive signs from Alaska and two others (McCain is out), we have the HCare Vote, but not for Friday!"

In the background is the news that Puerto Rico is in dire straights, tensions with North Korea are rising, and Veteran Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is retiring.

There seems to be no space to simply take a breath and relax.

On the other side of the Capitol building, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has been focusing on tax reform. Traveling the country focusing on business competitiveness, he tweeted on Tuesday that "The House, Senate & @WhiteHouse are united around a concrete framework for #TaxReform. There's no doubt about it: the moment is here."

Let's hope he is right. It would be nice to get something concrete done.

Ryan's message has been that our cars, computers, and cameras have all undergone massive changes since 1986, but our tax code has not. He says that it's time for a change. And he's right -- the questions are: will it sell and can it be passed?

Trump is scheduled to go to Indiana to help sell tax reform. He will be joined by Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who will be up for reelection -- so the message will be bipartisan -- if only just a bit.

The question that remains is whether the House, Senate, and White House will be able to deliver a unified message and pass legislation.

This is important stuff. But if the political conversations continue ad nauseam without producing any real progress, the American people may choose to disconnect altogether and, in doing so, we may lose our best shot for change.