Why did McCain’s fight end so differently from Teddy’s? The greatest lesson from these parallel insurgencies is that America today lacks a news organization that serves McClure’s role as honest broker and public educator. Instead, Fox News and Breitbart serve as its dystopian doppelganger, supporting the corrupt orthodoxy rather than the reformers, and no outlet has yet emerged to reincarnate McClure’s just crusade. Perhaps CNN was best positioned to fill this role as readily consumable and non-partisan news, but during these decades they abdicated their sacred duty. Even before they showed the wall-to-wall coverage of Trump’s rallies in 2015 to fuel his rise, they debased themselves by devoting nearly a year to wall-to-wall coverage of Malaysia flight 370.
Instead of mirroring McClure’s dogged focus on the abuses of the trusts, today’s TV news remains distracted by the President’s myriad antics as he jerks them around from one outrage to another. Just as it took focus on the catastrophes of Katrina, Iraq and Wall Street to finally help America realize the disaster of the Bush administration, so should today’s media remain focused on Trump’s most egregious abuses, rather than reporting his every shocking tweet. He tweets garbage for a reason—it works.
TV news must therefore embrace its historic duty and reform its business model immediately, even at the cost of lower advertising revenue in the short-term. The externalities of our dysfunctional politics and deteriorating country have become too costly. Partisan and ignorant TV media now combine with corrupt campaign finance to keep squeezing moderate Republicans out of Congress, which makes it harder for moderate Democrats to find anyone with whom to compromise. Would-be Republican moderates cower at the threat of well-funded primary challengers, backed by Breitbart, Fox and McConnell, in the aftermath of Citizens United.