A view of the Caucus from the Overton Window

“The Overton window, also known as the window of discourse, is the range of ideas the public will accept.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overton_window

The Overton Window matters in a Presidential election year because it not only determines the range of ideas that are discussed but also the range of candidates and, most importantly, the range and number of citizens who will or will not be enfranchised to participate in the democratic process. That in turn will determine the range of policy proposals that democratically elected officials will be encouraged to pursue in the following four years. If the interests of a segment of the population are not discussed in debates and town halls then then they will be disenfranchised and unrepresented in our democracy.

The political press plays a crucial role in determining the scope of the Overton Window.

If journalists derive their role from the Watchdog paradigm then they help shape the window in terms of accuracy of claims and fact-checking. Politicians who depend upon questionable facts and narratives will gradually find themselves excluded from discourse IF they are consistently corrected by watchdog journalists. That brings up the possibility that voters who agree with those dubious claims and narratives may be disenfranchised if watchdog journalists do their job effectively.

If journalists derive their role from the Objectivity paradigm then they help shape the Overton window with a standard of bipartisan fairness. If the ideological or absolutist members of one party are described as extreme and their claims are not deemed acceptable then “in fairness” objective journalists must also find the ideological members of the other party to be extreme and their claims not acceptable regardless of the accuracy of the claims of either party. That brings up the possibility that one party may use objective journalists to move the entire Overton window in their favored ideological direction by having a wing of the party continually making increasingly outrageous and absolutist claims thus requiring objective journalists “in fairness” to find many of the other party’s claims and objectives to be extreme regardless of the accuracy of those claims. Then almost all of the members of the party making increasingly outrageous proposals will be franchised and represented and most of the other party may be disenfranchised and unrepresented.

By now you probably know where I am going with this. For the most part the political press covering the Iowa Caucus uses the Objective journalism paradigm. The Republican Party has used that paradigm and the Tea Party wing to successfully move the Overton window to the right and enfranchise most of their voters and disenfranchise most Democratic voters. President Obama used the year-long face-to-face nature of Iowa caucus campaigning to bypass the political press and re-enfranchise many Democratic voters and that gave him enough momentum and credibility to enfranchise voters nationally. Even then the “objective” political press has been manipulated into viewing his policies as extreme left even though those same positions were viewed as moderately Republican 20 years ago.

My conclusion just from viewing this year’s caucus from the Overton window; Bernie Sanders needs to win the Iowa Caucus in order to bring the balance of national political discourse back to the center and to re-establish evidence based standards for policy proposals. Even if Sanders does not win the Democratic nomination Hilary Clinton must feel the heat of frustration and desperation of millions of working Americans who are falling behind and unable to secure a better future for their families. They will be disenfranchised unless Clinton is forced to make them a vital part of her political coalition. If the Overton Window remains centered on the right wing and Clinton is the nominee then she will only need to appeal to a center right coalition and passively hope for demographic change to win. Sanders must re-engage a unified working class electorate and expose the divisive nature of race-based politics if the Democratic Party truly wants to bring the body politic back to the center and away from authoritarian and plutocratic control.

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