Sunday, February 24, 2013

GOP Reform's Real Task

Michael Tomasky expresses skepticism that the policy changes suggested by conservative writers will be sufficient to return the party to national relevance on The Daily Beast.

We all know the problem. It’s Rush Limbaugh and his imitators and Roger Ailes and his network. They drive this hatred daily, and they intentionally misinform and lie; you think it’s an accident that polls always find Fox viewers the least connected to empirical reality? Pushing this fury and constructing this alternate reality is great for business. But it’s horrible for America. And the “serious” conservative pundits by and large try to pretend it doesn’t exist, or it’s not that bad, or MSNBC does the same thing in reverse. Well, it does exist, it is that bad, and no, MSNBC does not do the same thing in reverse. MSNBC has an agenda, but it doesn’t craft its messages in such a way as to make its viewers hate half the country.

This is the poison in our politics. Nothing changes until it changes. Somebody has to initiate it, and the people I named are the only people who can. Of conservative thinkers—and I apologize to him in advance for naming him, because I’m sure praise from me in this context will make him wince—only David Frum has addressed this problem. His 2011 New York magazine essay “When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?” said it well. He understands that this problem is one of the central facts of our current historical moment.

Tomasky nails it: the GOP's problems won't be solved by more moderate positions on immigration and gay marriage. The entrenched institutions on the right that profit from selling outrage (e.g. Limbaugh, Fox News) continue to create an alternate reality that is the basis for a climate of anger, resentment and extremism.  My conversations with Republican friends highlight this reality gap.  They reel off GOP talking points that they see as unquestioned fact (Obama is a secret socialist, he goes abroad apologizing for America, tax cuts for the wealthy grow the economy) which the fact check websites have debunked one by one.

This reality gap is a big reason for the decline in support for Republican candidates among young voters.  As noted by Robert Draper in last week's New York Times Magazine, young voters decribed the GOP as

 “Corporate greed.”“Old.”“Middle-aged white men.” “Rich.” “Religious.” “Conservative.” “Hypocritical.” “Military retirees.” “Narrow-minded.” “Rigid.” “Not progressive.” “Polarizing.” “Stuck in their ways.”     


The Moderate Nation said...

I like this piece. Insofar as "solving" the GOP image in America, these potential shifts in policy will not act as a single bullet. However, as far as some independent-minded folks go, it might sway some of them. The folks that have been inclined to vote Republican but couldn't make themselves do it -- this might give them a reason to come back home.

Ballard Burgher said...

Thanks for commenting. There are single-issue voters who may be swayed if the GOP speaks to their pet concern in a way that appeals to them. Tomasky speaks to the bigger picture--angry, stuck in the past, refusing compromise of any sort. Young voters particularly seem turned off by the non-stop temper tantrum.