Moyers: How Money and the Media Are Shaping the 2012 Elections (And Why You Should be Watching the Fox News Debates)
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BILL MOYERS: I was just about to say to you that we're also this year electing an entire House of Representatives, every member's up for election or every seat is to be filled and a third of the Senate. Who's paying attention to the congressional races out there into which the super PACs are pouring huge sums of money that nobody's talking about?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: The tragedy of the demise of good local journalism is that we do not have an intelligent focus at the local level on congressional races. There isn't a good way at the national level until a theme across all of the races begins to emerge for national media to do this job.
And as a result occasionally a congressional race will be featured nationally, but it's not going to be terribly helpful on the ground for individuals who are trying to make a congressional decision. When we don't have good local newspapers covering their community and covering the mayor and the governor and the members of Congress, we lose a lot in our capacity to elect effectively.
BILL MOYERS: Given what you say, what we both know, democracy at that level is in serious trouble because citizens can't know who's funding the campaigns, who's spending the advertising or how to hold 'em accountable?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: When you have debates as citizens pay attention to debates they can learn through debates.
BILL MOYERS: At the local level?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: At the local level debates are still the most likely way the easiest way for people to gain information about candidates' differences and similarities. When candidates at the congressional level are campaigning on a national platform it becomes very easy. What's an important question this year for a member of Congress? Did you support the Ryan plan for Medicare? Do you favor a voucher-ized alternative to Medicare as we know it?
Another question for congressional candidates: Do you favor the Republican national position that many of the social programs should be devolved to the states in the form of block grants? If you can get the national position of a party clarified and the members of Congress start to run on that position or alternatively the other side attacks on that position, then you're knowledge of level about Congress is increased. Because essentially electing members of Congress and electing a president are electing someone with the same philosophy.
BILL MOYERS: Kathleen Hall Jamieson, thank you. I'll be seeing you at this table often in the coming months.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: You're welcome.