Starving Artist’s Political Sale

Chris Matthews has recently begun to offer commentary at the end of his Hardball program on MSNBC. Mr. Matthews specializes in somewhat rapid, terse analysis of a particular issue; his interview style also reflects this. He admits in promo ads for his program to thrive on searching for and exploiting the weak points of an argument.

His commentary seems to also reflect this terse, no-nonsense style. In contrast to the somewhat longer-winded Keith Olbermann or the calmly precise and analytical Rachel Maddow, Matthews gets his point across without a moment to lose. He’s probably every network traffic manager’s dream. I thought that Mr. Matthews’ comment from this evening’s program was worth sharing:

While listening, I was imagining our system of government as a landscape painting. The broad background, the foundation that the work springs from, represents the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the rule of law. The smaller brush strokes are made by our representatives in congress, with the majority party largely having control of the palette. The President largely defines the subject, and We the People are the critical eye.

This may be an overly simplistic description of our system of representative government, but it also provides a good metaphor for what shouldn’t be able to happen. No one should be able to deface the painting with a big can of red or blue paint, with a knife, or by denying the artist access to the tools of his or her craft.

If indeed elections do matter in this country, then due diligence is necessary to assure that issues, not dollars, drive those elections. The recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporate contributors free reign in campaign spending stands to further exacerbate the tendency to evaluate a candidate’s viability by the size of his or her campaign war chest. You’d have thought they would have learned their lesson after watching John McCain’s campaign odyssey in the last presidential race.

Given the increasingly hyperbolic and even nonsensical nature of our political discourse these days, citizens need to remember that all of the phone calls and letters mean nothing if our representatives ignore the will of the people. This is not an easy thing to define, regardless of how hard some try to attach poorly-fitting labels to one ideology or another.

It’s up to us to become educated, empowered critics of what substitutes for the art of politics on our fraying national canvas.

Have a good week ahead.
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