Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Reading

A bit of post-game analysis: not that the intended audience will hear or heed the messages.

Not Listening — Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic on how the conservative media failed.

Conservatives were at an information disadvantage because so many right-leaning outlets wasted time on stories the rest of America dismissed as nonsense. WorldNetDaily brought you birtherism. Forbes brought you Kenyan anti-colonialism. National Review obsessed about an imaginary rejection of American exceptionalism, misrepresenting an Obama quote in the process, and Andy McCarthy was interviewed widely about his theory that Obama, aka the Drone Warrior in Chief, allied himself with our Islamist enemies in a “Grand Jihad” against America. Seriously?

Conservatives were at a disadvantage because their information elites pandered in the most cynical, self-defeating ways, treating would-be candidates like Sarah Palin and Herman Cain as if they were plausible presidents rather than national jokes who’d lose worse than George McGovern.

How many months were wasted on them?

How many hours of Glenn Beck conspiracy theories did Fox News broadcast to its viewers? How many hours of transparently mindless Sean Hannity content is still broadcast daily? Why don’t Americans trust Republicans on foreign policy as they once did? In part because conservatism hasn’t grappled with the foreign-policy failures of George W. Bush. A conspiracy of silence surrounds the subject. Romney could neither run on the man’s record nor repudiate it. The most damaging Romney gaffe of the campaign, where he talked about how the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes are a lost cause for Republicans? Either he was unaware that many of those people are Republican voters, or was pandering to GOP donors who are misinformed. Either way, bad information within the conservative movement was to blame.

In conservative fantasy-land, Richard Nixon was a champion of ideological conservatism, tax cuts are the only way to raise revenue, adding neoconservatives to a foreign-policy team reassures American voters, Benghazi was a winning campaign issue, Clint Eastwood’s convention speech was a brilliant triumph, and Obama’s America is a place where black kids can beat up white kids with impunity. Most conservative pundits know better than this nonsense — not that they speak up against it. They see criticizing their own side as a sign of disloyalty. I see a coalition that has lost all perspective, partly because there’s no cost to broadcasting or publishing inane bullshit. In fact, it’s often very profitable. A lot of cynical people have gotten rich broadcasting and publishing red meat for movement conservative consumption.

On the biggest political story of the year, the conservative media just got its ass handed to it by the mainstream media. And movement conservatives, who believe the MSM is more biased and less rigorous than their alternatives, have no way to explain how their trusted outlets got it wrong, while the New York Times got it right. Hint: The Times hired the most rigorous forecaster it could find.

It ought to be an eye-opening moment.

But I expect that it’ll be quickly forgotten, that none of the conservatives who touted a polling conspiracy will be discredited, and that the right will continue to operate at an information disadvantage. After all, it’s not like they’ll trust the analysis of a non-conservative like me more than the numerous fellow conservatives who constantly tell them things that turn out not to be true.

Whither Willard?  — Garry Wills on the future of a former defeated candidate.

What happens to those who lose a presidential campaign? Some can do it with heads rightly held high, and go on to give valuable service to the nation. We were reminded of this just two weeks before the recent election, when George McGovern died. Though he underwent a humiliating defeat by Richard Nixon forty years before, he was a man of integrity, some of whose ideas were continued by people who worked in his 1972 campaign, like Bill and Hillary Clinton, veterans of his Texas office that year. McGovern was re-elected to the Senate after his presidential loss, where he performed important services, like defying the cattle, egg, and sugar lobbies to set up national dietary standards. This was a long-time commitment of his. Even before he went into the Senate, he had served as President Kennedy’s point man in the Food for Peace Program. In 1998, President Clinton appointed him his ambassador to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, where he worked effectively to curb world hunger. Above all, though he was a heroic flyer in World War II, he was a principled opponent of useless militarism.

What public service do we expect from Mitt Romney? He will no doubt return to augmenting his vast and hidden wealth, with no more pesky questions about where around the world it is stashed, or what taxes (if any) he paid, carefully sheltered from the rules his fellow citizens follow.

Barry Goldwater, after his massive defeat, stayed true enough to his principled conservatism that the modern Republican Party was a beneficiary of his legacy—a beneficiary but not the determiner of that legacy. It was Goldwater himself who told the heir to his influence, Richard Nixon, that it was time to cleanse the White House by leaving it. Though Goldwater was a factor in the Southern strategy of Nixon, he was no racist, and no fanatic of any stripe. He was an acidulous critic of the religious right and a strong advocate for women’s rights (like abortion). He had backbone.

[…]

Many losing candidates became elder statesmen of their parties. What lessons will Romney have to teach his party? The art of crawling uselessly? How to contemn [sic] 47 percent of Americans less privileged and beautiful than his family? How to repudiate the past while damaging the future? It is said that he will write a book. Really? Does he want to relive a five-year-long experience of degradation? What can be worse than to sell your soul and find it not valuable enough to get anything for it? His friends can only hope he is too morally obtuse to realize that crushing truth. Losing elections is one thing. But the greater loss, the real loss, is the loss of honor.

Floriduh — Carl Hiaasen on our continuing saga of being the electoral laughingstock.

Once more Florida found itself in the humiliating position of being the only state in the union that couldn’t get its act together and add up the votes of its citizens on time.

By midnight Tuesday, every other state on the electoral map was blue or red. We were the only blank one on the board, and stayed that way late into the week.

This time all of America wasn’t anxiously waiting. It was chuckling and shaking its head.

We can’t count on Ohio or any of the swing states bail us out again in 2016, so what are our options?

In case you were wondering, the U.S. Constitution makes no allowance for a state to exempt itself from presidential elections in order to avoid national ridicule. Nor is there any legal mechanism by which Florida’s 11 million registered voters might have their ballots shipped somewhere safe to be counted — say, Kansas.

Maybe we just hold our heads up high and try again, bracing for the inevitable screw-up and the snarky one-liners to follow.

If the next presidential campaign proves as exhausting and dispiriting as this one, the country will sorely need a laugh or two when it’s over. Perhaps that is Florida’s true electoral destiny — to be the comic relief, the perpetual punch line.

It’s way less painful than being the decider.

Doonesbury — Being worthy.

2 barks and woofs on “Sunday Reading

  1. Regarding conservatives and the media: a big name, regular on Fox and a long-time contributor to the WaPo, also to our local rag from time to time, is Charles Krauthammer who shows up today until the heading “FRET NOT GOP: NO REINVENTION IS NECESSARY”. He lists all the great ones on the bench who are waiting to take up the challenge. Their names are Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Mitch Daniels and the inevitable Jeb Bush. This generation he says are philosophically rooted and politically fluent in the new constitutional conservatism. He maintains that Hispanics are natural conservatives and should be courted and convinced.

    He’ll never give up. He himself is too old, white and unfamiliar with the real America. His name translates to German power which should say something. Heh.

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