Maddow vs. the Madhouse

Imagine how much how much dumber cable news would be without her.

What does it say about American society that it took Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory to make people fully appreciate Rachel Maddow?

From a certain perspective, it’s infuriating that those horrified by right-wing political aggression are returning to Maddow’s program, when they never should have left in the first place. Even if Hillary Clinton had won the Electoral College, Republicans in the House, Senate and right-wing press would have continued to lie, cheat and steal from the American public–and Maddow’s voice would have still been relevant in terms of calling out GOP depravity.

Consistent excellence is often undervalued in this world, and Maddow’s near-decade of determination in pushing back against right-wing nonsense is admirable. Take Maddow away and cable news largely becomes a wasteland; our evenings would be filled with nothing but inanity from the likes of Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.

Maddow’s not the only one who fails to get the respect she deserves for the skill with which she analyzes the wrongs of the right. Her erstwhile MSNBC colleague Keith Olbermann never really received due credit for being a progressive pioneer in an age of conservative conformity on cable, and his compelling commentaries for GQ.com are seemingly overlooked today. Imagine how much poorer, how much weaker, how much dumber the American political conversation would be without either of them.

Maddow’s courage and passion would still be needed even if Trump resigned tomorrow. The oxygen of truth is always necessary in this political climate, and with an entire party and media infrastructure devoted to convincing as many Americans as possible that alternative facts are as valid as traditional facts, Maddow’s work is vital to our democracy.

Maybe I’m in my own bubble, but I am mystified by the argument that Maddow is somehow “smug” and “condescending.” Really? Is there any way to present facts to people who don’t like facts in a way that they won’t regard as “smug” and “condescending”? You’re not going to win over everybody. That’s not what Maddow’s trying to do, because it would be a fool’s errand to try. The New York Times famously described Maddow’s commentary as “usually wry, sometimes righteously indignant and always unapologetically partisan.” That’s exactly what’s needed now, no?

It’s ironic that Maddow’s program was largely responsible for introducing Elizabeth Warren to millions of Americans who had not previously heard of the future Massachusetts Senator in the late-2000s. Despite right-wing scorn, Maddow, too, has nevertheless persisted in scrutinizing Trump’s shady ties to Russia and the dark nature of his deference to Vladimir Putin.

Is Maddow perfect? No, but perfection is not needed to hold Trump to account. Excellence is, and Maddow has rarely let us down in that regard. Trump and his minions want you to view Maddow as a discredited journalist, but the reality is that Trump is a discredited president–and Maddow’s reporting has reaffirmed this reality.

Remember when George W. Bush insulted then-New York Times reporter Adam Clymer in 2000? Trump is presumably saying far worse things about Maddow today; he obviously loathes her because she won’t bow down to the reactionaries. She wouldn’t kneel to Glenn Beck when he tried to bully her. She wouldn’t kneel to the Koch Brothers when they tried to intimidate her. She won’t kneel to Trump.

When historians write about the Trump regime, and the journalists who stood up to his autocracy and hypocrisy, they’ll call Maddow a name, too: hero.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.