The Right-Wing Media Bubble Cocoons Republicans from Adapting to the New Political Landscape
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Republicans are responding to their recent losses not by moderating their rhetoric or rethinking their policy preferences, but by retreating deeper into the conservative bubble -- and hardening it lest any objective reality intrude.
In the Wall Street Journal, William McGurn approached the idea that villifying half the country as lazy “takers” dependent on the largesse of the makers may not be a way to win over the masses. He wrote, “Maybe Americans who have reason to feel insecure about their futures don't find a government that promises to be there for them when they need it all that menacing.” But he then rejects the notion and calls for better propaganda. “Conservatives' top priority,” he writes, “should be promoting an alternative—that in a highly competitive, global economy, the only real economic security for ordinary Americans is the security of opportunity.”
Victor Davis Hanson's analysis of the election was representative and equally informative. He wrote that Mitt Romney was an amazing candidate – “a glittering Sir Galahad who, given his impressive horse, armor, and lance, along with his decency and piety, assumed that he could win a joust in a fair charge against the other team’s knight.” Hanson claimed that 47 percent of the population are in fact dependent on government and mocked the idea that the Republican Party might try to reach out to non-white voters. “The only way Republicans can appeal to Latinos,” he wrote, is to “close the border, stop illegal immigration, and allow the melting pot and upward mobility to fracture 'Hispanics' along class lines.”
For Hanson and most of his readers, neither the message nor the messenger were problematic; only the pernicious bias of the traditional media prevented voters from embracing the plans Mitt Romney was going to detail right after his victory. Hanson then, without irony, warned his fellow Republicans of the dangers of falling into the comforting “cocoon” provided by the conservative media.
That cocoon is about to grow, and William McGurn may get more, if not better, conservative spin. According to CL Atlanta, “Cox Media Group, the parent company of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, plans to launch an 'independent (nonpartisan), anti-propaganda' national news website for conservative audiences that is 'rooted in the South away from the right and left coasts.'" Because Fox and the rest of the dedicated right-wing media apparently aren't enough.
The new “national news website for conservative audiences” will no doubt parrot Paul Ryan's line that Obama didn't win a mandate to govern “because [voters] also reelected the House Republicans." Never mind that House Democrats won the popular vote and the GOP retained its majority largely due to skillful gerrymandering following the 2010 Census.
So despite the fact that polls show a majority of Americans favor raising taxes on the wealthy in order to maintain programs that help lower-income people – and that more voters will blame the GOP than Democrats if the government starts down the fiscal slope – House Republicans are so far sticking with Ryan's disastrous “roadmap” for their next round of hostage-taking. “Our opening position is pretty much the Ryan budget, and we’ll see what they want to counter with that,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, a member of the House Budget Committee, told The Hill.
Safely ensconced in their bubble, the conservative movement isn't sparing a moment for introspection, and certainly isn't going to change its tune anytime soon. Most believe the election was somehow illegitimate – either because Obama managed to bribe voters with “gifts,” as Mitt Romney sees it, or because Americans were hoodwinked. A conspiracy theory that massive voter fraud delivered Obama a second term has moved from the fringes – from Dean Chambers, the “unskewed polls” guy – to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who this week told a right-wing talk radio host that it was highly suspicious that Obama lost in all of the states that passed voter ID laws (all deep red states where Democrats never win, of course).
So the Tea Party is going to redouble its efforts to primary viable Republicans it deems insufficiently wingnutty. Despite costing the GOP four winnable Senate seats in the past two election cycles by nominating freaks like Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin, Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell, they are already gearing up to unseat senators Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, Lamar Alexander in Tennessee and Saxby Chambliss in Georgia, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Club for Growth is threatening to target West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a popular Republican with a long family pedigree in the state, after she announced her intention to run for the seat held by Democrat Jay Rockefeller.
Scott Walker is trying to do away with same-day voter registration and Pennsylvania will fully implement its voter ID law. Despite exit polls showing that only one in four Americans wants Obamacare repealed, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, after briefly declaring that it was the law of the land, renounced his momentary apostacy and vowed to fight on for full repeal. A year after polls showed that voters diapproved of Republicans mucking with the debt ceiling by a 68-30 margin (PDF), Boehner declared that the coming limit was his “leverage” in negotiating a solution to the contrived fiscal slope “crisis.”
Even the supposed “break” from Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge by a handful of Republicans like Linsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Saxby Chamblis, R-Georgia, is a sham. The “rogue” senators will likely earn themselves a primary challenge from the right, but the reality is that their push for new revenues by eliminating unspecified deuctions while keeping rates on the wealthiest Americans low was the idea put forth by the guy who just lost an election to Barack Obama.
This is a movement that has swallowed its own rhetoric to such a degree that it is not capable of looking at the reality of its demographic challenges and adapting. It's a movement that's unprepared to accept the growing unpopularity of its positions on social issues. Republicans created a dedicated information infrastructure to combat what they saw as widespread bias in the media and academia, and now it's that same mighty wurlitzer that will prevent them from adapting to a changing America.