Rachel Maddow
Credit: JD Lasica/Flickr

And here I thought the attacks on New York Times Magazine writer Nathaniel Rich were the ultimate in baseless criticism.

If I live to be 100 years old, I will never grasp the argument, advanced here by Young Turkian Jimmy Dore, that MSNBC star Rachel Maddow is somehow responsible for the American electorate not being terribly concerned about Russian manipulation of the 2016 election:

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Is there a subculture on the left that prefers to blame media bogeymen for social problems, rather than confront harsh realities about American political culture? Dore’s assault on Maddow is eerily reminiscent of the rhetorical assault on Rich–in both cases, it stems from some progressives not being able to handle certain truths.

Rich’s critics appear reluctant to acknowledge the reality that the American electorate’s dismissal of environmental concerns—as manifested by, among other dynamics, the twin landslide victories of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s—played as much of a role as the machinations of the fossil fuel industry in fueling the climate crisis. Dore also appears reluctant to acknowledge that the American electorate’s apparently tepid attitude toward Putin’s perversity is an indictment of the American electorate, not of Maddow. It is not Maddow’s fault that people shrug their shoulders at evidence of a manipulated election.

Frankly, a special Pulitzer Prize should be created to honor Maddow for her work spotlighting the extent to which Russia has desecrated our democracy. She is nothing short of a one-woman Woodward and Bernstein for the digital age, probing for answers to every question about the foreign chicanery that allowed Donald Trump to seize control of the White House.

If the American electorate chooses to ignore inconvenient facts, their children and grandchildren will ultimately suffer the consequences (same with climate change, no?). A country willing to pay attention to the evidence Maddow has brought to light would be a country that would resist the machinations of this administration from coast to coast. A country unwilling to pay attention to such evidence will be a country that will never fully heal from the wounds Putin and Trump have inflicted.

Maddow can’t force people to care. That’s not her job. Her job is to pursue the truth and find the facts; she’s damn good at it, always has been.

Next month marks the tenth anniversary of the debut of Maddow’s MSNBC show. Shortly after its premiere, then-New York Times television critic Alessandra Stanley observed:

One of the oddities of an era that is considered so partisan and polemical is how insulated political expression really is on television. Sunday talk shows like “Meet the Press” sometimes bring in two opponents who sit side by side and disagree in turn, but the camera quickly moves on to regular panelists, journalists and columnists, who cozily take turns making stand-alone pronouncements. (One of the few shows that fosters feisty ideological debate, “The McLaughlin Group,” seems frozen in amber.)

On cable news programs, an anchor usually interviews guests of opposing views, from afar, by satellite, each commentator isolated in a box, arguing across a split screen. One reason “The View” has become destination viewing in this election season could be that panelists of different viewpoints argue face to face and eye to eye. Good debate isn’t just dueling talking points, it’s a clash of personalities and ideology in the same room.

Ms. Maddow has the character and political passion; what she doesn’t have is a worthy [ideological] opponent.

It didn’t seem to occur to Stanley back then that the reason Maddow didn’t have a “worthy opponent” is because no one on the right is on Maddow’s intellectual level. For the past decade, Maddow has been a vital voice for progressive principles–so vital that she’s now taken for granted, it seems. Have we forgotten that it wasn’t too long ago when progressive perspectives were all but invisible on cable news? There was a time when cable news executives would have denied opportunities to Maddow and those who shared her views. Thank goodness MSNBC gave her the opportunity–and thank goodness Maddow made the most of it.

There’s only one word to describe Dore’s attack on Maddow: ridiculous. Decades from now, Maddow will be praised for her reporting on Russia, and her overall body of work. It’s a damn shame she’ll have to wait that long for the credit she’s due today.

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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.