I tend to think of the Democratic and Republican Parties* as intentional collaborators on pretty much every issue of importance (imperialism, militarism, upward redistribution of wealth, mass incarceration, and so forth), with the major media on the same side, helping maintain the appearance of difference--what Digby refers to as "kabuki", but on a larger scale than she's comfortable applying the term. It's a nice system: the Republican Party can pretend to be triumphant over an opposition, the Democratic Party can pretend to always be the underdog, never quite achieving its goals because of obstructionists, and the media can behave in a way that allows those snookered by this act to believe that they're biased against whichever side the snookered one believes in (witness the odd belief among faithful Democrats that the media was biased against Obama in this latest election cycle).
But then I read articles like this one**, and they don't really fit in with that narrative. Media Matters has an obvious partisan slant towards the (D)'s, but the evidence they compile there is pretty damned damning. It really does seem that the media sides with Republicans more often than not, and any of the usual explanations of their motives don't really fit in with the facts. It would appear that our ruling corporate elite, which runs the media and sets their message, genuinely prefers Republicans (again, in general--in this particular cycle it's pretty clear to me that so far they prefer the Democrats). There must be some real difference between the parties.
Sadly, I'm pretty sure that the difference is not an ideological or policy one (though I do cling to the idea that the Democratic policies are very, very slightly better for the actual real people of this country and possibly of our imperial holdings, though that's debatable, and for the moment I am tentatively hopeful that Obama might surprise me by actually doing something about the environmental crises we're in the midst of). Rather, from their point of view I think the difference has more to do with which specific people are profiting from all of these sociopathic goings-on, because that does change depending on which party has power. In other words, when we voted for change, we voted for changing pretty much nothing at all except for which gaggle of obscenely wealthy conscienceless murderers we were giving a raise to. There's no actual difference of opinion on whether the whole system should run the way it does; there's only dispute about who gets to join the group at the top.
Relatedly, it seems to me that we have a four-branch system of government. The first, the Corporate branch, sets the agenda. The second and third, the Democratic and Republican branches, compete to enact the agenda in return for profit. The fourth, the Media branch, is under the direct control of the first and is in the business of selling the activities of all the other three to the public. Of course, the walls between these branches are far from solid; in fact this rarefied environment is the only area in which America has any significant social mobility. And the only two branches between which there's any conflict at all are the Democrats and the Republicans--which of course is good for the media, because they can sell the fight while making sure that their preferred side wins more often than not, and even better for the corporate elite, because competition drives down prices.
*If not all their members, then at least the leadership and majority of both.
**If you read a little bit of that article and think you get the gist, don't stop reading. There are so many convoluted reversals in it that it reminds me of the second season of Buffy--first you think the Big Bad's gonna be The Anointed One, and then it looks like it's going to be Spike, and then you're like, no, it's Drusilla, somewhere along the way you wonder if it's going to be Kendra's accent, and then it ends up actually being Angel.
By the way, I've been listening to Bach and Steve Reich all day long so hopefully sometime soon I'll get to writing about them.