Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Newsroom: Counterpoints (9/15/13)

Sorry for the late post. I had a really busy weekend and I just didn't have the time to watch The Newsroom on Sunday night. Just got around to it today and I'm doing a hasty counterpoints article.This might be the very last Newsroom counterpoints post I'll make. HBO hasn't officially announced whether it wants to renew the show for season 3 and the ratings haven't been particularly kind to the show. With that in mind, let's get to the season 2 finale (and possibly the series finale).

1. I'm a Republican who believes in national security and free markets. My party has been hijacked by social conservatives who want the term "Republican" to encompass things like opposition to gay marriage, teaching creationism in schools, fighting the drug war, opposition to immigration reform, etc.

This is the standard refrain that Sorkin resorts to when the show explains why Will McAvoy considers himself a Republican. This makes perfect sense. It is a valid point. There are many people within the Republican Party who feel like the party has been captured by the social conservative wing. This has always been an issue at the forefront of the libertarian wing of the GOP, best articulated in a book written 7 years ago.

To be honest, based on the arguments that McAvoy has expounded, it's definitely acceptable to say he is more along the lines of a Reagan Republican (pro-business, pro-military) than the current species found within the Republican genus. But this is Sorkin's show. And so he can have his main character as a Republican while portraying the Republicans harshly because the show is not Republican. McAvoy is one character who anchors a show that we only get to see snippets of every so often.

There were 9 episodes in the season, and we saw maybe half an episode's worth of the show within the show, News Night With Will McAvoy in real time. The timeline in the show itself is about a year and a half. So unless HBO wants to produce hundreds of episodes of News Night so we can statistically analyze the bias in the show, there is no point in saying that McAvoy isn't a Republican. If he says he is we have to take him at his word until proven otherwise. That's the way TV works.

2. Suddenly tort reform seems like a very good idea.

This throwaway line by Don is important because it touches upon a standard Republican refrain: we need tort reform, especially when it comes to corporate malfeasance and health care. Because the biggest corporations are worth hundreds of billions of dollars and each lawsuit can be a PR disaster waiting to happen, most large companies will quietly settle any lawsuit (no matter how frivolous) because it isn't worth it to fight it in court.

If the show truly wanted to mirror reality, both Leona and Reese would have instructed the lawyers to settle with Dantana for an undisclosed sum and no admission of guilt. It wouldn't have even been a question. But again, this is TV and the characters within it get to take the principled stands that the vast majority of people couldn't stomach in reality.

Court battles are long, costly, and can significantly dent a company's reputation. The best case scenario is that they spend millions of dollars over the course of several years fighting for exoneration in which there is absolutely no upside for the company. Worst case scenario is that they lose, spend more money paying off Dantana, and have a slow burn of negative PR crop up every time major legal deadlines loom in the case.

Companies will always settle if given the choice.

3. Republicans generate disproportionately negative press.

It sure seems like it, doesn't it? We had a GOP Senate candidate go on the record with the phrase "legitimate rape". I don't think there was anything as comparable on the other side of the aisle in such a high profile position. Looking back at key battleground Senate elections in 2010 and 2012 and it became quite clear that the GOP fumbled away Senate control due to the primary process churning out unelectable/unpredictable candidates for the general election.

Akin, Angle, O'Donnell, Mourdock all lost races that a generic Republican would have most likely won because of idiotic statements, inept campaign management, and a general perception that they are too "out there" to be a United States Senator. Primary challenges from "fringier" candidates also likely weakened Republican candidates in other races.

In the 90s and into the early aughts, the Republicans seemed to be much more organized, centralized, and disciplined while the Democrats embarrassed themselves in controversy after controversy due to embittered grassroots support. Well, the script has finally been flipped.

It's too early to tell whether the GOP will go all-in on the white vote for the '14 midterms or try and fracture the Democratic coalition via Clintonesque triangulation. I'm in favor of the latter, because the former will only ever work in midterm elections (with its power slipping eroding with each and every year) and never in the general.

4. Damn it's good to be a man.


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