Changing Your Frame of View

(Framing Assignment)

Neil Gorsuch’s nomination process for the Supreme Court has covered the pages of newspapers and been one of the top stories on news stations for over a month. I have chosen to analyze two articles that discuss the “nuclear option” by the Republicans and the filibuster by the Democrats that happened on April 6, 2017.

1) The first article is a left leaning article written by Sean Illing of on April 6, 2017. In this article, the author implies that by invoking the nuclear option the GOP will only further aggravate the extreme partisanship that already exits. The impact of this action, he believes, is to completely remove the motivation to compromise on anything, noting that while the “nuclear option” is extreme it isn’t completely unprecedented, since the extreme partisanship is the worst it has ever been. He believes that our society needs to stop rewarding extreme partisanship and start rewarding cooperation.

My right leaning article is written by Guy Benson of Townhall on April 6, 2017. This article more than suggests that the Democrats have once again caused issues for the Trump administration as a result of their filibuster of his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. He points out that the Democratic Party is acting irrationally, noting Gorsuch’s clean record and their lack of reasons for why he shouldn’t be confirmed. Benson points out that Democrats have been difficult every step of the way causing gridlock which has forced the Republicans to invoke the Reid Rule as the only way to stop this ridiculous behavior.

2) Article 1 (left-leaning by Sean Illing)

Generic Frame: This decision by the Republican Senators makes the likelihood of compromise on issues and decisions from this point forward slim to none and, as a result, we are headed to a majority rule environment.

Neither party has any incentive to compromise on anything. There is no reason to think, after this move, that either party will respect this tradition of securing a supermajority before approving legislation.”

The author does not mention the Democratic Party’s similar decision in 2013 to change the filibuster rules for other judicial seats, but instead chooses only to address the Republican’s decision as the final straw and refers to this as an “unusual rule change.” His descriptive choices are further evidence that he is placing blame for the failure to compromise and reach a resolution not only with respect to this issue but perhaps all matters in the future when he notes, “I think consensual politics across partisan lines is in a death spiral.” Illing then closes by saying that Republicans will essentially pay for this decision when elections roll around, very directly blaming them for the failure to compromise, “Perhaps Republicans will realize, come election time, that very little has gotten done, and maybe that will instill some incentive to come to the table.”

Issue of Policy

Issue Frame: This filibuster and ‘nuclear decision’ came from decades of animosity and disagreement, not solely because of the Trump administration.

“It’s also the natural consequence of a decades-long polarization process in Congress”

The author expresses this frame by repetitively discusses the past and what led up to the filibuster and ‘nuclear decision’. Illing tries to use history as an explanatory factor with phrases like what’s quoted above as well as, “The gradual ratcheting up of partisanship has been underway since the 1980s in the Senate.” Thus proving that his way of evaluating the issue isn’t necessarily to look at only the events surrounding it but instead the events leading up to it, even if that means looking back a couple of decades.

Issue of Value

Article 2 (right-leaning by Guy Benson)

Generic Frame: The Democrats were intent on obstructing the nomination of Gorsuch, which forced the nuclear option.

Prior to the Gorsuch announcement, Schumer said it was ‘hard to imagine’ a Republican president selecting any judge Democrats could support, ruling out allowing the confirmation of a conservative judge in the mold of Scalia. He indicated that he would do his best to either force a non-conservative choice, or hold the seat vacant for four years.”

In this article Benson is blaming the filibuster and ‘nuclear decision’ on the left. He suggests that the left’s intent was to obstruct the nominee at all costs, regardless of his qualifications. Framing his article as a way to place all the blame on the Democrats by emphasizing the fact that Benson didn’t think they ever wanted to compromise. Once again he states, “Senate Democrats do not have one single good argument against Gorsuch, nor do they have one single principled rationalization of a filibuster.”

Issue of Policy

Issue Frame: The Republicans didn’t want to enact the Reid Rule, however if they felt that was the only way to force the right decision, it would have to happen.

“Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who hasn’t said how she will vote on the nuclear option, argued that both parties ‘will rue the day’ that led to the likely rule change. ‘If it’s necessary in order to get him confirmed, I may have to vote that way, but I certainly don’t want to,’ Collins told reporters Monday night…Collins said Gorsuch deserves to be on the high court and that she’s ‘committed’ to making sure he gets confirmed.”

Benson’s use of this type of frame helped create the scene, this wasn’t a decision the Republican’s would have made had Gorsuch been given a fair shake. He clearly indicates that the issue was created by the Democrats, “Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, are now invoking the Reid Rule, named after the erstwhile Democratic leader who axed most of the judicial filibuster in 2013. We’ve been through the history of Democrats’ unilateral aggression and stunning hypocrisy on these questions.” Based on Benson’s evaluation, the Republicans were given no choice but to enact the Reid Rule. He puts the responsibility for this action solely on the Democrats.

Issue of Value

3) This story is written from very different angles in these two articles. One puts all the blame squarely on the Democrats and the other acknowledges that the situation has been a long time coming, not directly blaming it on any one particular group but implying that Republicans should have done more to compromise.

This story though could have been told using Illing’s interview structure but without blaming one party or the other, only acknowledging that both parties have contributed to the current level of partisanship. Reporting the facts about why the Reid Rule was created and why the nuclear option would be used then could’ve supported this thought. The article could emphasize that each party’s commitment to work within the existing rules could have preventing this situation. This story would have taken the slant out of the article itself, allowing the reader to make an informed decision based on facts.


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