Ideological Maintenance

The liberal and conservative critique of mainstream media often focuses on questions of journalistic practice on the one hand (bias), and the industry's systemic conflicts of interest on the other (corporatism). Yet it is in the form and framing of its discourse that it reproduces the ideology of the duopoly. In a tryst at the Washington Post, Tucker Carlson and Ana Marie Cox answered some readers' questions for a piece called 'Balance of Power,' perfectly instantiating 'he said/she said' style reporting, only without the reporter. (If the one came from Crossfire and the other from Swampland, what does that make of the Post?)

Though the two are supposedly on opposite sides of the political spectrum, a reader's question on the two party system revealed their common program by asking "do you believe the political system we have now is working or has it failed America?" on the assumption that the correct answer is the negative. Closing ranks, Cox and Carlson agreed amongst themselves to disagree with the reader, and look on the bright side. Cox wrote:
It's possible for a political system to not be serving a country without either the system or the country "failing." I mean, despite all the terrible things out there, we're still working our way forward, no riots or concentration camps or wheelbarrows full of money.
While Carlson solidified the position with a rear-guard action:
I don't have much to add, except the obvious: Vigorous debate over bills produces wiser laws. It doesn't bother me when politicians argue about policy. It's when they agree (on the Iraq war, the bailout, the internment of the Japanese) that we're in trouble.
Together these two set a pretty low bar. With the tacit admission that failing to serve the people or the country represents the success of the two-party system, and the implication that we are "in big trouble," they cynically paraphrase Winston Churchill: duopoly is the worst form of party system, but it's the best we can do.

Sustained, effective critique of the two-party system must, of course, allow for the idea that 'things could be worse.' For example, in a Boston Globe article on the politics of Tamil opposition to the Sri Lankan government, we read: "Some Tamils maintain that the Tigers do not really use suicide attacks. Others say the Tigers are the lesser of two evils - and the only hope for self-government and respect" (emphasis added). While in Ecuador, as one observer puts it, "there is really no legitimate opposition party to the incumbent Correa because it is not a two-party system, but rather a limitless and infinitely continuous party system." Yet in terms of political practice, such comparisons offer only trite consolation coming from the mouths of apologists for the duopoly, and serve to reinforce an attitude of resignation toward the status-quo, which is one of the primary mechanisms by which the two-party system maintains its hold on power.

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