poison pill politics or media mediocrity?

A few days ago, an article entitled “Poison pills prevent popular bills from becoming law” was published at the Huffington Post. I can forgive succumbing to the temptations of alliteration; indeed, the term “poison pill” makes it almost impossible to avoid. But I cannot forgive the typical tepid tone of “he said / he said” reporting on political parties that creates false equivalencies and declares all opinions to be “equal.”

Let’s take a look at two of the example “poison pills” discussed in the article, one from each side.

Case Study 1: A bill was put forth in the House of Representatives that would prevent interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans from doubling for 7.4 million undergraduates on July 1. In theory, this is something that everyone wants to pass, right? However, Republicans attached a condition to the bill: oh, by the way, voting for this bill will also result in eliminating funding for one of President Obama’s preventative health care programs.  This caused Democrats to vote against it.

Case Study 2: A bill was put forth in the Senate to renew programs that protect women from violence. Also something that everyone is in favor of, right? However, Democrats attached a condition to the bill: oh, by the way, voting for this bill will also result in extending new protections for gay and transgendered people. This caused Republicans to vote against it.

In both cases, the article presented the scenario as a “poisoned pill” scenario: one of the sides putting in a provision that was designed specifically and intentionally to make the bill unpalatable to the other side.  The article says,

Republicans said Democrats purposely inserted those provisions (extending new protections to gay and transgendered people) to make it impossible for many GOP senators to vote “yes.”

This is yet one more example of the ridiculous “every opinion is valid” and “both sides are the same” reporting slump that much of American media has fallen in to. It’s lazy, and it’s cowardly.

If you are going to be an honest reporter, it’s unconscionable to simply state “as fact” that Republicans find it impossible to vote for the protection of a minority group without asking why. It is ridiculous to argue that a provision that takes away funding for a law that has been passed (the “poison pill” in Case Study 1) is the “equivalent” of a provision that is designed to help protect a group of people from violence and discrimination (the “poison pill” in Case Study 2) simply on the grounds that some people disagree with each.

The real “problem” with the political shenanigans described above isn’t the fact that Democrats added a “pill” that would require protections for gay and transgendered people. The problem is that Republicans think that protecting gay and transgender rights is “poison.”

Poison Pill



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  1. Fulgenzio Siciliano says:

    Great and thoughtful post as usual, Greg. I think the real problem is that we’ve become so divided as a country that each side honestly feels like the other side’s opinions are poison. Maybe we’ve gown so far apart that we are poison to eachother. That’s the problem.

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