MSNBC Fading?

Posted on June 1, 2013 by

News that MSNBC talk shows – Maddow, Matthews, Hayes and the others – took a ratings dive recently underscores my own frustration and “issues fatigue.”

We watch MSNBC to share feelings of triumph and possibility and as a buffer for our outrage.  Six months after the 2012 election, with the political process slogging along, our attention drifts.

How worked up can we get about the “Obama scandals” at the IRS and Justice Department?  Must we really suffer through another discussion about historical and inevitable second-term missteps and whether this president has been “weakened?”

I’ll admit to paying less attention lately to the big stuff as well: immigration, Guantanamo, sequester and drones.  I’m even dragging my feet on more esoteric material which usually holds my interest: the five appointments to the National Labor Relations Board that Senate Republicans appear certain to block.

I’m not just less inclined to tune in MSNBC but find myself switching stations on my car radio from NPR news to a ball game or to classical music.  Or, instead of clicking through for detailed analysis when scanning my regular sites – Salon, Daily Beast, American Prospect – I’ll pick up a dusty old hardcover from my bookcase.

I go through these withdrawal periods from time to time.  Particularly when the political situation is most bleak: after Bush beat Kerry ten years ago and after the Republicans took back the House in 2010.

Uncharacteristic and alarming, however, is that I’m feeling especially moody about politics during a period when Democrats allegedly have the power to govern.

Political appointees in this administration have overreached and their actions have been “uncovered” by a dogged press and a voracious opposition.  Now we have to watch as this familiar pattern plays out.

The audience gets restless as it becomes more apparent that Barack Obama’s good intentions and conciliatory nature can’t end the lockdown of the American political system.

And – unfortunately for our friends at MSNBC – we start flipping channels.

Comments (5)


  1. David Baker says:

    Right on Lou. I find myself in the same doldrums. We haven’t watched Rachel in weeks. It’s depressing to see what’s going on. Summer activities also play a big part. Thanks capturing the thought.

  2. Betty says:

    I feel the springtime mood takes me outdoors distracts my mind and that is good. We need breaks and personal time to step back not drop out but just step back. I still hear it all in the background and focus on what I can affectively engage with others about. The ACA has my full attention as CA sets up the exchange here that will affect all of us in CA. As for the bashing in Washington I feel we are all taking less interest in who is punching who in order to distract us. The market, housing, jobs, and the economy in general are moving forward and I am confident that Obama is getting more done than we are hearing about. After all it is our democracy our responsibility and we are doing pretty well to date and our voices are still needed to get more of what we want done in Obama’s second term and we will keep on participating.

  3. Tom Mackell, Jr. says:

    I agree that we are in the doldrums and the enthusiasm for politics and politicians is on the wain. Congress, approval rating is at an all time low at 13%. Republicans and Democrats have no creative juices working on our staggering problems. No one in Washington has had the guts to set the stage for a jobs program. We are destined to see a generation of people lose the opportunity for gainful employment and society will be worse off as a result thereof.
    We must stay energized and push forward regardless of the summer hiatus. This is no time for sitting back and smelling the flowers, but rather, this is the time to stay riveted on the issues and making noise.

  4. Lou – you are right on with this essay. I have been turning my attention to art, music and enjoying our summer weather. After the recent elections in the city, I feel it is time to enjoy our city and what it has to offer.

  5. rick chertoff says:

    It’s suffering because of its constraints. basically “flogging a dead horse”. About 2 months ago I suddenly got fed up with Maddow. She was repetivley driving home a relatively minor point with 3 or 4 consecutive thrusts, when anyone would have gotten the first or second time. When complaining about this to a friend, I added that she never challenges the Administration for not going after Wall St aggressively, not demanding end to foreclosures, which would put $s in circulation and create jobs, for expanding war into more countries, etc. Not criticizing Obama on fundamental grounds- for him not being a but always a . He’ll “lead” on guns but not on jobs, not on peace, not on justice. And she is silent or near silent.
    In fact, when you see where she , she starts to appear like a synchophant for the Demo party, which is a top down set of vested interests dressed up as populist “centrist” party. In other words, by observing where they will not permit their anchors to go, CNBC lets you know more about them than what they do cover. When’s the last time you heard a sharp critique of the economic system, why not interview a Chomsky, a Richard Wolfe? When have you heard American policy towards Israel criticized ($100m+ in aid since 67), military expansion, etc. The dogmatically narrow view tells you “must bust in early May, orders from the D.A.”…G.E.’s not having it- simple.
    The irony is there is so much discontent but so little media allowed to voice it. We’ve been so easily molified by our “team spirit” being handed a few small plums.

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