The American media largely limits its view of politics to questions that are at issue between the big two parties. Abortion is a major issue of contention between the two parties, therefore it is discussed. Monica Lewinsky was a major issue of contention between the two parties, therefore it is discussed.
Where the parties agree, there is no discussion in major media. The benevolence of so-called “free trade” is agreed on by the two parties, so is not discussed. The idea that “social security is in crisis” is agreed on by the two parties, so the alternative (that social security is in pretty good shape) is not discussed. Real election reform is opposed by both major parties, so cannot be discussed in the mainstream press; only faux-reforms like the ridiculous McCain-Fiengold bill can be discussed.
If you had asked me in 1999 what the single most important issue was, I would have said “the sanctions on Iraq, which have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children”; but since both Democrats and Republicans are (or were) pro-Iraqi-child-killing, the sanctions were not an issue the media ever discussed.
One thing which particularly infuriates Democrats about Nader is his oft-quoted claim that the two major parties are identical. I never thought that was true (still don’t), but hell, it was a political slogan. (“It’s the economy, stupid” wasn’t exactly a substantive analysis, either). Nader’s point – as he said over and over in interviews – wasn’t that the parties were alike in every detail, but that from the Green Party’s point of view the two major parties are alike in substantive and important ways.
To some extent, I think how much people are capable of seeing that depends on how much they get their thinking about what is and isn’t important from the major media. In 1999, I thought the most important issues were Iraqi sanctions, “free” trade versus fair trade, and comprehensive universal childcare. (Or maybe free universal healthcare. Or maybe AIDS in Africa. Or maybe real election reform. I waver on what the third issue is, to tell you the truth.)
The point is, most of the issues I give a damn about aren’t talked about much in the major media, because the leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties are largely in agreement on those issues.
Are there significant differences between the Republicans and the Democrats? Of course there are. But are their differences more important than their agreements? Well, that depends. If you think the issues I care about are unimportant, then the differences between the two parties are more important. From my perspective, the opposite is true.