The biggest difference between a traditional party leader and a talk radio or cable TV host, Rosenwald said, is that their incentives, priorities and goals are very different. A conventional party leader like McConnell thinks about how to pass legislation through the lens of what is possible inside the constraints of Congress.

“That’s a very different calculation from talk radio,” Rosenwald said. “Talk radio hosts wake up in the morning and say — and this goes for cable news hosts as well — they wake up and say, ‘What’s the best show I can put on today?’”

The chief goal, then, for talk radio and cable TV is to entertain, in order to keep listeners and watchers from changing the channel. This distorts their presentation of the news, Rosenwald said, and leads to an oversimplified and reductionist portrayal of events.

“If you say, ‘We’ve got to cut a deal to raise the debt ceiling because there’s going to be serious economic consequences if we don’t do this, and you may not like it, it may not come with the things we want, but there’s divided government and the system works this way’ — I just bored your audience even trying to talk about that,” Rosenwald said.