Trump's rise was no accident; rather, it was a natural outgrowth of a growing and influential faction of conservative media that for years fed the Republican base a steady diet of fringe theories masqueraded as news....Darcy and Engel's colleague Josh Barro responds that it would be futile for the GOP to try to take on the conservative media, in part because shunning the big media names on the right wouldn't reduce the flow of lies:
Republicans ... allowed their base to be held captive by a conservative press that moved their base further right, pushed conspiracy theories about Obama, and set unrealistic exceptions for them while in office.
So it should not be surprising that when Trump came along in 2016 and aggressively echoed this rhetoric, a significant portion of the base accepted him.
You can most easily tell you can't put the conservative media back in the box when you consider one of its most powerful elements -- email forwards and Facebook memes, which are controlled by no authority and make profits for nobody (except Facebook).Barro also argues that you can't wean the GOP off lies because lying -- about the broad-based benefits of tax cuts for the rich, for instance, or about the nonexistence of climate change -- has been central to the GOP for years, and comes from the top, spread by rich donors via the think tanks, periodicals, and outside groups those donors fund.
These media reflect the huge demand for Trump-style lies -- even if you shame Hannity out of the business, someone else will rise up to offer these lies. The donors cannot ever regain control over the machine.
But why are we even having this discussion? The GOP will continue to be the party of lies because being the party of lies works -- for fat-cat donors, for the bottom lines of conservative media outlets, and, yes, for the party itself ... in most non-presidential elections.
This year we're talking about a Republican bloodbath, but let's put that in perspective by remembering where we're starting from. Recall the results of the 2014 midterms:
Republicans ... enjoy their largest majority in the House of Representatives since prior to the Great Depression and the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt with 247 members. The last time the GOP enjoyed that large of a majority was the 71st Congress in 1929 and 1930.More:
As Amy Walter notes for the Cook Political Report, Democrats lost big at all levels of government [in 2014], including the states. “Today,” she writes, “about 55 percent of all state legislative seats in the country are held by Republicans. That’s the largest share of GOP state legislators since the 1920s.” What’s more, “just 11 states have an all Democratic-controlled legislature,” and Democrats hold single-party control in just seven states. By contrast, “Republicans have a legislative majority in 30 states, including the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina,” and single-party control in most of the South.This year, Democrats have a good chance of taking back the Senate -- but if they do, they're unlikely to have a large majority (and they may not have a majority at all -- they might win a 50-50 Senate, with Vice President Tim Kaine as a tiebreaker). Democrats have an outside chance of winning back the House, but if they do, it will be by the slimmest of margins. And there's little to no evidence that a wave of Democrats will be elected to statehouses and state legislatures as a result of Hillary Clinton's likely victory.
So when the dust settles, Republicans will still dominate in the states, and they're likely to continue holding one house of Congress (and could even hold two). The Republican Party will still be in pretty good shape.
What's supposedly killing the GOP is killing the GOP only in presidential races, and in the occasional Senate or House race. The party gets in trouble only in races with seriously contested primaries. In such races, consumers of a lot of right-wing media propaganda seek a candidate who's mean, ornery, outraged, and uncompromising. In those races, either the crazy, extreme candidate wins or a not-so-crazy, not-so-extreme candidate has to tack to the crazy, extreme right in order to survive.
But in most races, that doesn't happen. Either there's no primary or the establishment choice survives the primary by being, at worst, acceptably extreme. That works just fine for general elections in red states (and many purple ones), and certainly works in carefully crafted red House districts.
It just doesn't work in presidential races. In part that's because they're so long, which means the primary process exposes us to more than a year of Republican crazy. In part it's because they're so public. And, beyond that, it's because Democratic voters actually show up for presidential elections. (They don't show up for other elections.)
So the right-wing propaganda machine will probably keep making the GOP nominate unelectable presidential candidates -- but it's not hurting the party very much in non-presidential races. Under those conditions, and given the lucrativeness of the right-wing media model and the craziness of GOP voters, why should we expect anything to change?