The Right Wing Cocoon

After the election I wrote a lot about how the Republicans will have considerable difficulty winning a national election due to becoming out of touch with reality. The right has become anti-fact, anti-science, anti-reason, anti-history, and anti-economics.  Politico and The Washington Post looked at this problem on Monday. Politico concentrated on the right wing’s media cocoon:

Now, many young Republicans worry, they are the ones in the hermetically sealed bubble — except it’s not confined to geography but rather a self-selected media universe in which only their own views are reinforced and an alternate reality is reflected.

Hence the initial denial and subsequent shock on the right that the country would not only reelect President Barack Obama — but do so with 332 electoral votes.

“What Republicans did so successfully, starting with critiquing the media and then creating our own outlets, became a bubble onto itself,” said Ross Douthat, the 32-year-old New York Times columnist.

The right wing’s cocoon has been more counterproductive due to the publicity surrounding their most outlandish spokesmen:

…for nearly six years, since President Bush’s second term went south, Republicans have been effectively without a leader. And into that vacuum has stepped a series of conservative figures whose incentives in most cases are not to win votes but to make money and score ratings by being provocative and even outlandish.

“Their bottom line is their main goal, but that doesn’t mean they’re serving the population that buys their books,” said Domenech.

And this, say next-generation Republicans, is where cocoonism has been detrimental to the cause.

The tension between the profit- and ratings-driven right — call them entertainment-based conservatives — and conservatives focused on ideas (the thinkers) and winning (the operatives) has never been more evident.

The latter group worries that too many on the right are credulous about the former.

“Dick Morris is a joke to every smart conservative in Washington and most every smart conservative under the age of 40 in America,” said Douthat. “The problem is that most of the people watching Dick Morris don’t know that.”

The egghead-hack coalition believes that the entertainment-based conservatives create an atmosphere that enables flawed down-ballot candidates, creates a cartoonish presidential primary and blocks needed policy reforms, and generally leave an odor on the party that turns off swing voters.

It even fosters an atmosphere in which there’s a disconnect with the ostensible party leaders.

Consider: In the fall of the past two presidential campaigns, those in the conservative cocoon were talking about, respectively, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Obama as a black radical, and the seemingly impeachment-worthy scandal surrounding the deaths of U.S. officials in Libya. Meanwhile, on the actual campaign trail, John McCain and Mitt Romney showed little interest in even mentioning either topic.

And the entertainers’ power isn’t just with gullible grass-roots activists who are likely to believe whatever nefarious rumor about Obama is forwarded to them in an e-mail chain — it’s with donors, too.

Outside of Washington, New York and state capitals, the big conservative givers are as likely to have read Ed Klein’s Obama book and seen Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary “2016,” and generally parrot whatever they just heard on Fox News as the old lady stuffing envelopes at county GOP headquarters.

The Washington Post argues that Red America must rethink what it knows about America, describing the thought of one Republican (who appears to have lived in the right wing cocoon):

She had devoted her life to causes she believed were at the heart of her faith and at the core of her Republican Party. She counseled young married families at church, spoke about right to life in area schools and became a stay-at-home mom with two daughters.

Now, in a single election night, parts of her country had legalized marijuana, approved gay marriage and resoundingly reelected a president who she worried would “accelerate our decline.”

While she took apart the office, a dozen friends and neighbors stopped by to share the same concerns.

“I just don’t get it,” the county sheriff said.

“I’m worried we won’t see another Republican president in our lifetime the way it’s going,” a GOP volunteer said.

“What country would want more years of this?” asked the newly elected alderman.

Cox shrugged back at them. “I don’t know anymore,” she said. “What the heck happened to the country? Who are we becoming?”

On Monday The New York Times had an article on the increased success of MSNBC as it developed an identity as the liberal counter-part to Fox. It would be misleading to compare them as mirror images of each other. MSNBC has filled prime time with liberal opinion shows. The major objection to Fox isn’t that they spend some of their day with conservative opinion shows but that the shows billed as news are also conservative opinion shows aired in a news format, distorting the news to perpetuate the conservative alternative reality. The prime time liberal opinion shows, while clearly biased in their presentation, are far more honest in presenting the facts. While Fox will distort the facts to support the conservative agenda, MSNBC anchors such as  Rachel Maddow will use the facts to debunk conservative arguments.

Many liberals would prefer that Fox be countered not by a network presenting liberal viewpoints but by objective, high quality news (a niche which CNN does a mediocre job of satisfying). NPR would be a better model. This attitude has helped to reduce the number of liberals who are in a liberal cocoon analogous to the far more prevalent conservative cocoon.

There is an advantage to the success of MSNBC as a liberal network. Getting people to think in terms of a liberal and a conservative network helps place Fox where it belongs. Identification of Fox as the conservative network weakens the idea that Fox is a real news outlet. Plus, if we are forced to have  left and right wing “news” networks, we might as well have a true liberal network. In the past I have often heard people speak of listening to both sides on television, but if they watched Fox there would be no balance from the left. Watching Fox and CNN just gives a far-right and center-right outlook. MSNBC is not my preferred model for countering Fox, but as this is what has developed I am happy to see that it is becoming more successful.

Quote of the Day

“It has been two days, and Florida still hasn’t finished counting all the votes from Tuesday night’s election. Of course, it’s gonna be weird when they’re finally done and they’re like, ‘The winner is – Al Gore?’” –Jimmy Fallon