This week, I had the privilege to listen Bob Schieffer sharing his experiences on multiple occasions. Having years of experience in broadcast journalism, Schieffer witnessed many important turning points in American history.
Schieffer covered politics in his career. I was impressed essentially by his comments on American democracy and media. He strongly criticized the way politics work in the United States and he said the system is broken. He was quite pessimistic about the situation: “This is worst than any time in DC, I don’t see anything good coming soon”. According to him, the way that the politicians fundraise for their election campaigns makes the system very fragile. When the senators and congressmen arrive in Washington DC, they don’t represent their constituency anymore. Their view is already determined by the business interests of their supporters, therefore there is no more room for discussion and healthy debate.
Schieffer underlined the damage of political polarization to the democracy which is another reason blocking a dialogue between Republicans and Democrats. His observation is that the polarization reached to an extent where even a democrat and republican politicians do not socialize together, avoid all contact with each other fearing that would harm their political career by giving the impression that their political standpoint is not clear.
During his speech, Schieffer not only highlighted the changing political environment but also pointed out the changing ways of communication between citizens by the use and rise of social media. As indicated by him, social media facilitates citizen movements and organizes people even in the lack of a leader, as it was the case in Egypt. Yet, he emphasized the role of investigative journalism and the independently gathered information for a healthy democracy. In his words, “Independently gathered information is vital for democracy as much as the right to vote.”
There are many lessons for all politicians and journalists from all around the world to learn from Schieffer’s more than 40 years of experience which covers hot topics such as democracy, freedom of media, communications revolution, polarization, and political dialogue. While we arrive conclusions about the United States, we should also rethink these notions in our context.
by Derya Kaya