Partisanship is not a result of us not hearing enough about George H.W. Bush talking to his grandkids. It’s largely a result of one party devoting itself to racist, reactionary politics in the service of global corporate interests, but that’s another conversation for another time. More importantly, if you’re an immigrant who is now too terrified to get free baby formula for your child because you heard it might mean you can’t get a green card, you probably don’t care very much whether John Bolton’s guilty pleasure is watching Real Housewives; if you’re a poor person in Arkansas and you just found out you got dropped from Medicaid because of work requirements you didn’t know existed, it’s not all that relevant to you if John Kelly stubbed his toe and said the F-word.
For comfortable D.C. journalists—the sort who might go from the Ivy League to a Buckley Fellowship at the National Review and then to a more prestigious magazine and a CNN gig—the material effects of politics are much less likely to reach you. Politics is, as Chris Hooks wrote in 2016, “the way we distribute pain”—it’s “how we determine who gets medication and who dies young, who learns in a class of twenty kids and who learns in a class of thirty.” But what is politics if you’re privileged enough to insulate yourself from that pain? How do you view politics if you can pay for private schools? If you have good, employer-sponsored healthcare? It’s unlikely you’ll ever have to deal with Medicaid work requirements or skip taking the meds you need to make rent. You don’t have to choose between feeding your kids and buying their birthday gifts. So the import of politics isn’t “will I be able to eat” or “will I be deported,” it’s “are they nice chaps?”
Libby Watson on politics.
Watson is talking here about the scourge of access journalism specifically, but this also applies to a good 99%+ of the middle class, for whom life does not change very much under one party or another, and thus politics is reduced to, variously, “who did I find most charming on TV” at best… and “who will most hurt those [immigrants/single mothers/poor people/hipsters/uni students/insert-other-maligned-group-here] I don’t like” at worst.
But, y’know. Gods forbid anyone be partisan about anything. How déclassé!