If NPR station manager Caryn Mathes had her way, the upcoming mid-term election would be meaningless. And if President Obama’s pre-election analysis of his party’s troubles is correct, it should be. For America’s governing class, the scariest day of the year isn’t Halloween, but Tuesday, November 2—the day we cast our ballots.
In response to recent calls for NPR’s federal funding to be cut or eliminated, Mathes, general manager of WAMU in Washington, DC, argued: “I would hope that it reinforces how important it is for funding sources to be firewalled from editorial decisions. Whatever government funding a station gets needs to be protected from the vicissitudes of emotion and passion over a particular issue.”
What if President Obama is right: “Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument do not seem to be winning the day all the time, is because we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country’s scared.” In such a case, it could hardly be right to force NPR stations to supply their own funding like just any other radio station.
The problem with politics, in other words—and especially elections—is that it involves under-evolved people whose fears disrupt the march of progress. Too bad we can’t all be like the President, who himself seems to have avoided the “hardwired” reaction to reject “facts and science and argument” when afraid—or perhaps has managed to avoid fear altogether.