This past Sunday, the Opelika-Auburn News ran a column by Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard in which Hubbard argued that President Obama is politically targeting Alabama for taking jobs from his “liberal political base.” Hubbard noted that the “fawning liberal media and left-wing posse that protect Obama claim that his job-killing actions are necessary.”

Clearly, the president has different perspectives from Alabama’s Republican leadership, but Hubbard’s comments point to a significant change in the role of the press as it relates to the political class.

Increasingly, media has become siloed according to political ideology, effectively divided between varying degrees of conservatism and liberalism. Most people like to hear their ideas and perspectives affirmed in what they read, watch and hear. Many media markets have simply responded to those realities.

The new normal finds writers and media personalities keeping within their respective silos, building an audience that agrees with them, and railing against ideological enemies. What this often means is that “conservative” media is easily dismissed in more liberal states, and “liberal” media is ignored in conservative states. The silos provide the temptation to use a sweeping claim of bias to avoid politically sensitive conversations.

The Bill of Rights does not protect the press because America’s founders wanted to give a certain political ideology a leg up. It protects the press because it is an essential tool in preserving liberty. While the press has an obligation to maintain diverse perspectives, each of us should be willing to consider opposing thoughts and opinions as well. If we dismiss media as ideologically bent, it is much easier to ignore the discomfort and inconvenient narratives the press often creates.

Many members of the press do have more liberal leanings. Some are conservative. So what? If we are serious about a free exchange of ideas in a democratic society, we should recognize the importance of being able to defend those ideas against their detractors, be it a left-wing posse or right-wing tea party. Is it really so strange to think that policy perspectives could improve through rigorous examination?

Alabama is an unmistakably conservative state. In that sense, Republican political majorities have a lot of room to shape policy, be a test case for new ideas and actually engage in politically difficult conversations.

How about authorizing charter schools? Why not explore a constitutional expenditure limit for Alabama’s state budgets so we are not always looking for one-time infusions of cash? Could we figure out how to remove the sales tax on groceries? How are we going to solve our prison woes without having a federal judge decide the outcome for us?

We may not agree on the path forward, but our leadership should not avoid the tough issues simply because it is politically expedient to highlight President Obama’s allegedly ill-intentioned agenda and potential psychological imbalances.

We have seen whole political campaigns run on “fighting Obama’s liberal agenda” without explaining what that agenda happens to be, why it is wrong and what a better plan looks like.

The point is that we have plenty of real issues to discuss, and Alabama’s leaders should be talking about developing solutions. Alabama could be leading the charge on developing unique policies that reflect the conservative character of our state and what we want to become.

Vigorously defending good ideas while treating dissenting perspectives with respect has an immeasurably greater impact for moving Alabama and America forward than scaring people into opposing a political party or figure.

We need to focus on solving the problems we face, creating more opportunity, and getting over the political fear factor. Claiming media bias as the path of least resistance may prove easier, but we lose an opportunity to find better solutions in the process.

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