A Vote for Kennedy

If you have read my Facebook rants you know that I don’t think either major political party is interested in anything beyond the entrenchment of its own power. I also am perpetually disappointed in media organizations that bow to authority rather than challenging it. As comedian Bill Hicks said, “I’ll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. ‘I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.’ ‘I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking.’ ‘Hey, wait a minute, there’s one guy holding out both puppets!’” The media’s job, it seems, is to pretend it doesn’t see the guy holding both puppets.

TheIndependentsThat’s why I am shocked to say that I’ve found a mainstream news program that I like. It’s called “The Independents.” The hour-long show airs on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 9 PM ET (6PM PT) on Fox Business, and it is hosted by former MTV VJ Kennedy, Reason Magazine Editor Matt Welch and entrepreneur Kmele Foster. This show is everything that most cable news shows are not.

For starters, it’s not nasty. It doesn’t sneer or look down. “The Independents” laughs. It laughs at the insanity of thinking that the Republicans or Democrats have the answers. The first few segments of the show open with the three hosts (led by Kennedy) and one guest who is liberal and one guest who is conservative. They discuss a handful of issues, and when the Democrat or Republican attempts to respond with party talking points, they are challenged by an independent critique—one from outside the two parties. It is amazing how rarely this type of questioning happens on television, and that is a big part of what makes this show so valuable.

Party hacks who go on television shows sort of know how they will be challenged by their hack opponents or host. To see them challenged by hard data (which the show’s hosts have in spades) and common sense questions is good fun for the hosts, the panelists and the audience. This is how smart, polite people actually debate. It’s so rare to see it on television. (I know I keep saying that, but it’s true.)

The show further sets itself apart by asking the crucial question why? Why should the government control so much of our lives? Why should the government have a heavy hand in regulating business? Why can the government dictate our sexual choices? Or what drugs we take for health and recreation? This week “The Independents” asked a question that the mainstream media has largely ignored: Will government regulation of 3-D printers stymie a potentially explosive, economy-altering industry? I don’t know, but I am glad someone brought it up. It’s the type of smart question an alternative media type like Dan Carlin would ask.

(If the producers of “The Independents” are reading this, Carlin would make a terrific guest on your show, especially during any discussion of the NSA. He was a lone voice in the wilderness on the domestic spying issue for years.)

The show asks big questions and challenges its partisan guests with a blend of humor and smarts, which makes it an incredible advertisement for small government advocates. There is a perception that those who want smaller government are angry nuts who want to do away with things like public roads. “The Independents” counters that narrative. There is no anger or yelling. No one is calling for the closing of I-95 or fire stations. The discussion is lively and on point. Credit Kennedy. She is the rare TV host who can see the merits of someone else’s argument and politely thrust and parry.

If you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you should be thrilled that this show exists.

It’s an honest arena for ideas and policy, unlike so much of what you find on cable TV. The hosts of “The Independents” ask the types of questions that real people ask. If your party’s policy can stand the heat on this show, then maybe it has a chance of flying with the American people. It would have been a great place, for example, to vet the Affordable Care Act, which isn’t going so well right now.

One last thing. This type of show—smart, fun, not mean—is the future. Partisan shout-fests are the past. When the Baby Boomers are no longer with us, hack shout-fests will be out because Gen Xers and Millennials have no patience for the people who caused our problems yelling at each other in our living rooms.

Last year a record number 40 percent of Americans identified themselves as political independents. It’s about time they had their own TV news program. This is a good one.

Joe Donatelli is a journalist in Los Angeles and the author of Full Griswold: Stories from a Honeymoon in Italy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Email: contactjoed (at) gmail (dot) com.

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