The public had envisioned a system where its representatives could finally simultaneously speak to their colleagues and constituents. The representatives could look into the camera and say to their constituents and the American people what their position was and that they were willing to defend that position. Many thought the system overall would and should have benefited from this transparency, but they were wrong.
No one could have fathomed the unintended consequences that would follow C-SPAN’s entrance into politics. As soon as those cameras started rolling, many of our representatives saw it as an opportunity to further their political ambitions. If controversial bills came to the floor, rather than work out a compromise with the opposing side, they took the opportunity to preach from their bully pulpits. They could snarl, huff and puff at the camera, showing their audience how dogged they can be because their constituents and, more importantly, their donors like to support candidates that they deem unwavering. What these politicians forget is that for the flag of democracy to fly, both sides have to be willing to waver on their positions.
Unfortunately, C-SPAN and the like have given these political divas extra air time to express their grievances, and oh have they come up with grievances. They have now found ways to play the role of the establishment’s anti-establishment — such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) with his hour-long trashing of the U.S. Senate. Cruz has successfully honed that charade into a formidable campaign for president with a clearly crafted public persona: Ted Cruz, the establishment’s anti-establishment.
This strategy has unfortunately worked in favor of unbending representatives as they have been re-elected multiple times based on quick clips shown to their constituents and donors. They can snip a clip of a staunch speech they gave to their colleagues back at the Capitol. The clip will, of course, show them speaking into the microphone passionately about why their position is blindingly the right one and the opposition is wrong.
C-SPAN was supposed to break the wall of American politics and make our politicians more accessible to their constituents. Instead, what we have is a reality TV stunt with overpaid actors looking to land their next big gig. While playing the American audience for fools, they are gaming the system and benefiting from it. The only ones who benefit from access such as the ones C-SPAN and the like provide are the multi-billion-dollar funded Super PACs that have the resources to sift through those clips and find a scene damaging enough to end a politician’s career. These Super PACs do not represent you or me; they represent one percent of the one percent, and they are the ones benefiting from this so called transparency.