I like the four hour bloc starting with Up with Chris Hayes and ending with the Melissa Harris-Perry Show. It's one of the most unique blocks on television on at least two dimensions–time and politics. Before these shows we didn't get two hour blocks to talk about politics or economics or even the connection between the two in any capacity. And now we do.
Before these shows–although here we can trace them to Rachel Maddow on the one hand and Keith Olbermann–we didn't have any opportunity to discuss liberal much less left political ideas in the mainstream media. Perhaps the closest thing I can think of off the top of my head was the hour long Sunday talk show on BET featuring George Curry and a few other black journalists and news makers. I know there's a consumer economy here–television is based on ad revenue and these shows are sold in order to get folk to watch and consume. But there's important culture work that can be done here.
And there's one more unique dynamic going on in Melissa's case–she brings a social scientists perspective to issues of race, gender, and politics that we've missed. But I'm going to address that later. Still trying to wrap my head around the Black Public Intellectual 2.0 phenomenon.
However even though I like the shows and appreciate the format, they still constrain. It's impossible for folks to get everything they want to say out.
Here's the two most important points I didn't get a chance to make because of time constraints:
1. While I believe progressives can accomplish a great deal, particularly in states with democratic majorities, we still need rhetorical support. Or at the very least we don't need rhetorical sniping. Focusing again on the family piece, every time Obama talks about governments as if they are families, every time he argues that it's primarily the father's responsibility to take care of his family, he makes it harder for progressives to organize. Every time.
2. Along those lines Stacey Bouchet and the folks at Women in Fatherhood have been doing a yeoman's job of trying to bring together families wracked by poverty. What I didn't know before talking to her was that Clinton's welfare reform bill significantly transformed the relationship between poor families and the state as far as child support goes. The state now assumes that familial support is supposed to come from the father…and if he isn't present they charge the father for taking care of his family. A significant portion of owed child support is actually NOT owed to the family but owed to the state. Furthermore, when fathers do "step up" and take care of their responsibility, the state SUBTRACTS THAT MONEY from the services the family is provided.
This transformation is significant. It further creates a political division within families–driving fathers and mothers apart from each other when they should be political allies (even if they can't be familial allies). And it further places the blame on poor (often black) men for the myriad problems poor communities face. In talking about families and about the crises they undergo we should be as specific as we can possibly be about how punitive policies designed to deal with the poor are.
There's more (i didn't go into much depth about the challenges middle class families face), but if I could do it all over again and make two more comments, these are the ones I would've made. Thanks for watching.