Joe Gandelman, 7/31/2013 [Archive]

Change is Like an Old Building

Change is like an old building

Independent's Eye by Joe Gandelman

SARGENT, Neb.-- They thought it was dead, but now it's coming back. The little theater, a dancehall named Oscar's Palladium on North Second Street in Sargent, Neb., had once been the scene of shows on a Midwest vaudeville circuit, then dances featuring big bands such as Tommy Dorsey's, then early rockers. And then it closed.

Now it's back featuring country western acts and variety acts (including recently yours truly in my non-writing incarnation), greatly but not completely restored with a shiny wood floor, bright lights and cozy snack area. It's attracting whole families to come see live entertainment.

Yes, even buildings once written off as oh-so-yesterday can experience change:they can be abandoned, torn down -- or reborn.And so it is in America's entertainment, media and political cultures:edifices rise, fall or are revamped.

The 1980s: TV talk was dominated by touchy-feely daytime talkers, and an MTV producer decided he wanted an updated version of the 1960s confrontational, shock-talk Joe Pyne Show.So the Morton Downey, Jr. show debuted in 1987. It was an instant hit featuring the chain-smoking host literally getting in the face of guests, throwing them off his show, and calling them "pabulum puking pinkos."

Downey made politics highly personal as his largely young studio audience roared in approval -- creating a template for Jerry Springer, and talkers such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. As detailed in the documentary "Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie," by 1989 Downey was off the air due to personal and professional hubris. But the edifice he created impacted the way Americans talk to political foes and made touchy-feely talk shows seem outdated.

Today, Media giant Cumulus is poised to drop conservative talkers Limbaugh and Sean Hannity at the end of the year. Limbaugh has been the target of a boycott aimed at getting big name advertisers to flee his show due to his comments about women and minorities, but Cumulus' action will be due to distribution fees. The talk show edifice Limbaugh helped strengthen remains strong. And if Limbaugh and Hannity leave the Cumulus building, they'll find another.

January 10, 1999: "The Sopranos" debuted on HBO, featuring jewel-like scripts from David Chase and flawless acting by James Gandolfini, changing television forever.In his must-read book "Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad," Brett Martin details how "The Sopranos" sparked a new, third Golden Age of Television: 13 episode-per-season cable series, with movie-like quality scripts, acting, writing and directors. Television's edifice was reinforced and upgraded.

And our political culture? It now seems heading where Oscar's Palladium was before it closed.

People don't discuss, they attack, negatively define and demonize (in public, blog posts, blog and website comments, emails and on Facebook). In Congress, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson notes that the GOP has adopted obstruction as an actual policy -- a development The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky says is absolutely new in American history: "This isn't a partisan crisis," he writes. "It's a historical crisis." Is America's 200-year-old edifice called democracy about to deteriorate? Can it be fixed?

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama continues to talk a tough political game, but the bottom line is that historians will say that when he put a big push on health care reform after his big 2008 win he used up clout that would have been better allocated to pushing through tougher measures to fix the economy. An Associated Press survey now finds that four out of five U.S. adults struggle with unemployment, near-poverty or reliance on some welfare.This is not a stellar legacy.

Unlike with a building, it isn't easy to tear down the rank partisanship, game-playing or to remove the partisan bile stuck in the septic tank of our political culture's edifice. But there is one parallel.

Congress and both parties are now like many of the entertainers who performed on the stage at Oscars since the early 20th century:They give us a song and dance.

Only the ones at Oscar's Palladium have always been in step and in tune.

-----

Copyright 2013 Joe Gandelman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN's John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at jgandelman@themoderatevoice.com and can be booked to speak at your event at www.mavenproductions.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.



Download Joe Gandelman's color photo - Download Joe Gandelman's black and white mug shot photo
Why not run a cartoon with the column? We recommend the cartoons below as a good compliment to Joe Gandelman's topic.
Click on the thumbnail images to preview and download the cartoons.

Related Cartoons

 Lib  Limbaugh Spews
By: Pat Bagley

July 18, 2012

 Lib  Limbaugh Spews COLOR
By: Pat Bagley

July 18, 2012

 Con  Jobs Speech
By: Nate Beeler

July 25, 2013

 Con  Jobs Speech COLOR
By: Nate Beeler

July 25, 2013

rush and his poodle
By: David Fitzsimmons

March 8, 2012

rush and his poodle
By: David Fitzsimmons

March 8, 2012

 Lib  Limbaugh sponsors COLOR
By: John Cole

March 12, 2012

 Lib  Limbaugh sponsors BW
By: John Cole

March 12, 2012
  

We do not accept and will not review unsolicited submissions from cartoonists.
Sales & Information: (805) 969-2829 sales@cagle.com
Billing Information: (805) 969-2829billing@cagle.com
Technical Support: support@cagle.com

FREE cartoons for your website if you're already a paying print subscriber!
Artwork and columns are copyrighted by each creator. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. [Privacy Policy]