It’s hardly a surprise, but still it’s impressive how quickly media narratives of the debate over the Obama stimulus package have been slipping into the familiar grooves of the “Democrats In Disarray” story-line. Bill Scher at the Our Future blog has the appropriate response:
Crossfire from his own party! Key Democrats blast Obama stimulus plan! Political wrangling bogs down economic stimulus plan! At odds! Doubts arise!
Such is the traditional media interpretation of the policy deliberations going on between the incoming Obama administration and members of Congress.
But read deeper into the stories and you don’t find evidence of explosive hostility or deep conflict. There is civil debate and discussion, not “crossfire.” There is desire to modify aspects of Obama’s plan, but not its overarching thrust. Congress is still expected to pass legislation within a month of Obama’s swearing-in, which is not exactly getting bogged down, but moving pretty swiftly.
As Scher suggests, there’s a unwholesome taste for authoritarianism that’s implicit in media treatment of intra-party debate as unnatural :
Instead of one-party rule undermining checks and balances and stifling discussion, we may well be seeing how — when a progressive mandate for action points everyone in the right direction — a President, a Congress and their constituents can engage in calm debate to refine proposals while still acting in timely fashion.
Yes, it’s been a long time since either of the two major political parties was able to resolve disagreements without fearing the appearance of weakness. But just as there’s no time right now for genuine disarray among Democrats, there’s no time for prevarication or artificially imposed uniformity over the differences of opinion that actually exist. We’ll get over it.