Andrew McCarthy — December 3, 2013
The problem with the soap opera that is modern American politics is that politics is not soap opera.
The object of the latter is entertainment through a daily, hokey maintenance of suspense. This necessarily requires the viewer’s suspension of disbelief, particularly when it comes to the lead characters. Depending on what improbable twists and turns the plot must take to meet the demands of day-in-day-out drama, the stars of the show slip seamlessly from villain’s to hero’s role, from incorrigible vice to transcendent virtue. Soap fans buy in because they know it is not real. It is, to the contrary, their escape from reality.
Politics is our reality. It only seems like soap opera because of the way it is covered: Right into your living room, day-in-day-out, celebrity journalists present the adventures of their fellow dramatis personae, celebrity pols. The journalists portray politics, moreover, as suspense, and not just such suspense as the news of the day may warrant by dint of its relative seriousness – an earthquake, the outbreak of a war, or the specter of millions losing health-insurance plans they were promised they could keep. The continuing suspense lies in the practice of politics.