Politics is a luxury of the political class. Nowhere is this better observed, perhaps, than on the weekly Sunday news shows, where lawmakers and hosts convene to enrich themselves -- the former by saying things that ensure campaign donations and the latter by sensationalizing these often-senseless utterances for ratings. The various talking heads also in the mix enrich themselves directly by showing up and getting paid and indirectly by publicizing their paper/blog/book.
There are several reasons these shows exist. First, to make money. Second, to keep one's talking point(s) alive. Third, to feed a sense of self-importance as an inside member of "the game". These reasons are, of course, not mutually exclusive.
Advertisements on the networks that offer these shows attempt to frame the importance of the shows as a part of some important and rational national political discourse. Meaningful discourse is necessary to produce a sense in citizens that government is accountable and legitimate. This builds the trust in government, peaceable electoral losers, and the decorum among political opponents necessary for a working democracy.
However, and this is not news, substantive discussions are lacking from the Sunday shows; nor are these programs providing information that is not available elsewhere. To use the word "discussion", indeed, is being generous.
Perhaps, expecting discussion is too much. After all, these are the Sunday "talk shows", not the Sunday "conversation shows". Perhaps we are supposed to be so intellectually titillated by the one-way content of these shows that those of us not part of the political or chattering classes will have meaningful discussions with one another all week and convey our rational policy decisions to our lawmakers, who will turn our desires into actions; true policy-opinion congruence.
Not so much.
Instead, these shows act as an accelerant for activating potential hyperpartisans. For example, don't believe in climate change? Here's Dr. George Will who will denounce it and look quite believable and professorial in doing so. As an aside, Dr. Will might look professorial, but it is one thing to work as he does in the one-way mirror of opinion column writing and talking-head gabbing, and quite another to subject one's ideas to criticism and have to actually respond and defend them, many times in person, on a regular basis.
So, then, why is politics a luxury of the political class?
Politics is the game that's played that decides who holds power, and how much. Sunday shows indeed treat politics as a game. However politics also decides, directly and indirectly, who lives and what these persons' lives are like.
Things like healthcare, the ability to support a family, education -- these things are all human rights necessary for a life of any dignity whatsoever. These are not "talking points". Well-off and otherwise secure members of the political class can afford to treat these things as parts of some game, because they will have food in their stomachs, a roof over their heads, medicine when they are sick, and decent education for their children, no matter how the game turns out. It is evidently tough to compromise with a full stomach.
The Sunday shows are a weekly public spectacle that celebrates the economic stability of the political class and its resulting luxury to be able to treat matters of life and death as Romanesque sport. In this way, they are an embarrassment to our democracy, in no way serving the function of providing the non-governmental sources of policy-relevant information Robert Dahl and others knew and know is so important to accountable governance. Further, these shows become an embarrassment to our country, demonstrating even further than did Abu Ghraib our decadent dismissal of the importance of human rights, by preferring a game over dignity.
I don't know what the TV brings into the lives of citizens in other countries. It is my hope that the TV in those places does not celebrate the dysfunction of treating the responsibility of providing human dignity as a game to be played in cavalier fashion. It seems too much to have that same hope for the USA at this point.