Today in the New York Times, Frank Rich posted a column about billionaire donors to extreme right-wing causes like the Tea Party movement. The column comes on the heels of two high-profile stories of the same type – Jane Mayer’s article “Covert Operations” in the New Yorker and Jon Stewart’s semi-weekly coverage on The Daily Show. In fact, Rich’s column is 80% Mayer and 20% Stewart leaving 0% from Mr. Rich himself.
But it’s not the fact that he didn’t contribute to his own column that bothers me.
Before I get to what does bother me, I will note that Rich served a valuable function in reporting this story. He brought the topic to an audience that may not read Mayer’s article or watch The Daily Show. So, I think it’s important that more people learn about what drives politics, policies and media talking points on both sides of the political spectrum. On the other hand, by combining forces with The New Yorker and The Daily Show, Rich confirmed for the Left what they already believed about the Tea Party and, more broadly, conservatives; and he offered nothing to the Right or the rest of us in the middle that was of any use. Ok, so now we know. There are rich men out there funding political and public policy agendas and not going on cable news every 10 seconds to talk about it.
I, for one, am shocked. Except, not at all.
Mayer did the reporting and uncovering of this story. I do not expect anything else beyond the insightful, balanced and interesting story she published. Stewart, likewise, gives us exactly what we expect from him- sarcasm, the sad truth and a goofy joke. Rich does nothing to help us or inform us. Since he’s part of the established Left and needs stories like this to remain relevant, then I guess he’s fine with finger-pointing and scare tactics.
I’m looking for (and hoping for) a bit more.
There’s a response to this type of activity. We organize other groups. We can promote answers and defend healthy public policy. But more than anything, we can pay attention! Billionaires organizing public policy groups and media companies to promote personal or corporate agendas seems to work because many Americans (sadly, a majority of Americans) don’t care. Well, they may care just not enough to vote. It takes time to pay attention. We’re too busy.
Well billionaires like the Koch brothers on one side and Soros on the other, aren’t too busy. They’re paying attention. Rich seems overly concerned with whether their motivations are “pure.” Get real. Who cares what their motivations are? The point is that they are doing what their doing and trying to make political puppets out of the rest of us. And it is unlikely that an op-ed in the New York Times is going to do anything to change how most people view the powerful elite.
Unless the Left and Right figure out how to live and work together or the middle stands up for itself as a true political force, we’re going to continue with petty in-fighting, political name-calling and lots of unsolved problems.
Rich (like so many of his peers) does not tell us how to focus on society’s biggest problems or how to bring solutions to a gridlocked country. He simply points a finger across the political gap and reiterates who’s to blame for our problems. Thanks for nothing.