For not the first time in these pages, I would submit that the hyper-partisan, tribal state to which we’ve descended now transcends politics to become the largest substantive hurdle we face if we are to remain “a people.” In a tweet today, President Trump claimed that MSNBC’s Morning Joe – featuring hosts and panel members almost universally harshly critical of the President — had suffered a degradation in its ratings. Apparently, his claim is not true – it’s been reported that March Nielsen ratings show that the program had a 10% increase in viewership in Q1 2019 over the same period in 2018 — but it caused me to Google “cable news ratings” to see how the various outlets are faring. The link to the page that surfaced is provided below. It provides the latest indication I’ve seen of how closely – and sharply – our nation is divided … and how tired we all have become with the whole business.
Taking the morning cable shows first (although we enjoy Morning Joe’s shtick, I refuse to call or consider any of these offerings, “news shows”) – the broadcasts that appeal to those of us most interested in politics and public affairs – Fox & Friends totals 1,435,000, with viewership in the 25-54 category at 268,000. If one combines MSNBC’s and CNN’s offerings – not unfair; the President considers both his enemies – the viewership is 1,492,000 with 289,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic. These are razor-thin margins – essentially 51% left – 49% right among the entire audience, but interestingly, only a bit more left-slanted in the younger demographic.
The other indication that struck me is that … total viewership appears to be somewhat down in 2019 over the same period in 2018 (there are a couple of Fox exceptions), but the 25 – 54 demographic is significantly down … across the political spectrum. These findings seem to suggest that a general exhaustion has set in. One can argue that such a feeling of weariness among our citizens – perhaps a feeling of powerlessness to meaningfully affect our representatives’ behavior — is more ominous either for the President or for the Democrats, but the fact is … it’s not good for us as a nation.
Within the last year, we have had the opportunity to travel to both the Southwest U.S. and to Alaska. Wonderful trips, scenery, and wildlife. At the same time, each trip also provided a view of the perspectives that segments of our people hold arising from their backgrounds and difficulties — outlooks and attitudes understandable in context but not readily grasped by many of us primarily familiar with urban opportunities and problems. Although one can only reasonably conclude that President Trump has determined that his best interest lies in sowing division amongst us, these trips made it apparent that any well-intended President of either party seeking to engage and unite us will face a profound challenge in bridging the gap currently existing between well-intended people holding very different sets of visceral beliefs. An example: border security. In and of itself, it is not only not wrong; it is indeed necessary, and no more nor less moral than traffic signals. Mr. Trump, through his rhetoric and behavior, has made it a symbol of racial bias, inciting an exaggerated counter-reaction among those sickened by his bigotry and his Administration’s treatment of those reaching our borders.
During the debates over the next couple of nights, I’ll be watching to see which of the Democratic candidates acknowledges that his/her duty if elected will include recognizing and accommodating not only the Democratic base but the reasonable core values of those with whom s/he does not necessarily agree.