There was a time when I respected and looked to Chris Matthews (the Sunday ”Show” and “Hardball”) for decisive and insightful commentary — those days are gone. Be it his seemingly strange draw (attraction?) to the right-wing, media-loving nutjob Sarah Palin or his collegial and respectful but still slightly condescending attitude toward Senator Bernie Sanders in my opinion, this once fine pundit has officially jumped the shark.
For those not familiar with the term, to “jump the shark” means to have entered a state or period of one’s endeavor (in this case journalistic integrity and relevance) where that which was once revered has become cliché or caricature; I believe Mr. Matthews has in fact entered this period.
What motivated me to write this observation was my reaction to Mr. Matthews’ return to describing himself as “progressive”.
During Mr. Matthews’ seemingly never-ending promotional tour for his book on John F. Kennedy entitled “Elusive Hero,” there was clearly not only a philosophical attraction to the former President but also a generational attachment. In turn, this “generational ideology”, it would seem to me, accounts for his belief that he and his perspective (as that of many in his demographic) perceive themselves to in fact be “progressive” as that is how they have always viewed themselves. The problem is that times, and “labels,” have changed.
As MSNBC pundit Rachel Maddow well deconstructed on her show of 29 February, 2012 (http://on.msnbc.com/wbSWg9 ), the political landscape has drifted rightward since around 1972 leaving the Democratic Party as a whole the “centrist” party as the Republican Party veers evermore toward “conservatism”. So when Mr. Matthews notes the senatorial vote of 1 March, 2012 regarding the defeat of a controversial piece of legislation regarding women’s health in specific and healthcare coverage in general (http://bit.ly/xFyaOm ), he falsely draws an equivalent comparison saying that “both parties are being pulled by their extremes” (http://on.msnbc.com/zm7rwd ). This perspective belies the fact that three Democrats voted with the Republicans while the lone Republican to crossover and vote with the Democrats was the retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe.
This is precisely where Mr. Matthews jumps the shark. It is in his apparent inability to see that the Democratic Party, like himself, has become staunchly centrist. This is not the first time he has done this, and there are volumes of anecdotes and articles written on Mr. Matthews’ “interesting” definitions of progressive and liberal and his use of personal pronouns therein. Now far be it from me to judge the way one self-identifies though I suppose I am in this essay, but it seems rather easy to differentiate Ms. Maddow’s type of “progressivism” from where Mr. Matthews posits his, which seems to me like old fashioned “liberalism” (one can dress like Santa and distribute presents but that doesn’t make one THE Jolly Ole Elf).
As one who lies somewhere between the Democrats’ Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Socialist Party (I am actually a member of the Green Party of America), I am growing weary and tired of the mainstream media firstly saying that the Democratic Party is (or otherwise represents) the left while secondly, never affording representatives of the Green or Socialist Parties the ability to draw comparisons from the Democrats on their respective programming or in their publications. Herein, we might also attribute the earlier noted “generational bias” to this omission. Mr. Matthews and the corporate officers at MSNBC and many other “liberal” outlets grew up in and post McCarthy-Red Scare era and are undoubtably hesitant to invite and give voice to representatives of “truly” left wing institutions or parties due to such historical bias or perhaps even more disturbing — contemporary fear — fear stemming from the observations of Ms. Maddow and attempts to shift political discourse rightward.
Well, at least Mr. Matthews has the journalistic integrity to frequently invite Senator Sanders on even if he is a scary anomaly of sorts and for those of us “on the left, we have technology and the promise of truly grass-roots muckracking.