While MSNBC has built it’s reputation as a liberal network, it actually allocates more airtime to conservative hosts on it’s opinion shows. The network is known for it’s liberal firebrands but it has slowly evolved into the most balanced opinion based network on cable television. The network begins it’s daytime schedule with MORNING JOE-named for it’s primary host, former conservative congressman Joe Scarborough. While the show is co-hosted by Scarborough’s fiance Mika Brzezinski, the show is named after the republican host. Scarborough banks 3 hours of airtime each morning. A rotating line-up of mid-day hosts trade airtime until the solidly republican Nicolle Wallace reignites the network’s prime-time lineup. Wallace hosts her own show at 4pm , and Chuck Todd follows her with MTP Daily. Wallace is a clear partisan but Todd’s coverage largely lacks the partisan bent of most opinion based shows. Todd is followed by For The Record with Greta Van Susteren who is clearly right leaning and her husband is a gladiator for right wing politicians. Greta is followed by Hardball with Chris Mathews who is categorized as liberal by most conservatives. Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell round out the prime time line up as the network’s solid leftists. In total that means conservatives bank 5 hours, while the clear liberals that the network is best known for only log 3 hours. Even if we include Chuck Todd as an unsubstantiated liberal, the left leaning hosts represent only 4 hours of the networks airtime. While often maligned as the left’s version of Fox News, MSNBC has reoriented itself to be an opinion based network that represents both the left and right in nearly equal proportion.
Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders were finally alone in their last debate before the New Hampshire Primary. The removal of former Governor Martin O’malley proved to be surprisingly impactful as the two hopefuls sparred in the best political match of the season. The event hosted by MSNBC stars Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow was undoubtedly the best of innumerable debates on a multitude of channels. There were no attempts at mockery in this debate and no allusions to the marital status of any other candidates, instead the two politicians engaged in substantive exchanges aimed squarely at the nation’s most pressing issues. Emerging from the debate were fewer distinctions in values and instead a display of the Democratic Party’s struggle between pragmatism and idealism. Hillary Clinton emphasized that she is a battle tested acolyte and a known quantity. Voters, she humorously quipped know just about everything there is to know about her life. Clinton argued with Sanders that she too is a believer in Universal Healthcare but her idealism has been tempered by the political realities of her decades long struggle with America’s most powerful political interests. Sanders positioned himself as the unapologetic advocate for the truest aims of the Democratic base and the ideals of the Great Society. Sanders painted himself as untarnished by Wall-street’s bribery and Clinton struggled to explain how she was not left compromised by her acceptance of speaking fees that soared above a half-a million dollars per hour of speaking. Sanders scored significantly in the domestic discussion, nestled comfortably in his wheel-house as he continued to promote campaign finance reform, wrenching the big banks apart to prevent another “Too Big To Fail” crisis, Universal Healthcare and even his most controversial Free College movement. Sanders was summarily dismissed from the stage once the conversation turned to Foreign Policy which has become the sole dominion of Hillary Clinton. Sanders was visibly out of his element when discussing world affairs and Clinton made her most impressive rational for her candidacy which stands firmly on her level of expertise.
The debate was notable for the sharp tonal edge of what Clinton herself described as a “Vigorous Agreement”. Sanders successfully portrayed Clinton as the spouse of Wall Street while Clinton successfully portrayed herself as the pragmatic advocate of incremental progress. Clinton suggested that she represents competent administration and a plausible means to progressive ends. The debate landed squarely on Sanders as representative of democratic idealism and Clinton effectively arguing that Sanders is well intention-ed but delusional regarding the likelihood of his success.
The New Hampshire Debate was quite simply, spectacular. Who Won the exchange depends simply on the weight one gives toward the Heart or the Head, the Ego versus the Super-Ego and Idealism tempered by Pragmatism.