Sunday, July 09, 2017

IMAGINE THERE'S NO IDEOLOGY

A lot of right-wingers are angry about this Washington Post story by Peter Holley because, as they see it, the story blames the shooting of several GOP members of Congress by a left-winger on the rants of a racist right-wing radio host from the shooter's hometown. I have problems with the story, too, though not exactly the same problems as its conservative critics.
BELLEVILLE, Ill. — It’s not yet 11 a.m., and Bob Romanik, sitting behind the microphone at his radio station in a rundown strip mall in the middle of America, already has said the “n-word” out loud — and on air — at least a dozen times.

Romanik is a surly 68-year-old former East St. Louis street cop. He hates Black Lives Matter and talks proudly about his Caucasian heritage to anyone who will listen. And do they listen. His controversy-courting radio program — he’s the self-styled “Grim Reaper of Radio” on KQQZ 1190 AM — reaches across this region, in and around Belleville, Ill.

The suburban community about 20 miles east of St. Louis drew attention in recent weeks because it was the hometown of James T. Hodgkinson, the out-of-work politically frustrated home inspector who up and left, drove a van to the Washington area, and then shot four people at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria.
Is there any reason to believe Hodgkinson was a Romanik fan?
[Romanik] bludgeons and berates his targets on air, takes pride in being hated and punctuates his rants with racial and homophobic slurs that some have labeled hate speech....

Crime — which Romanik blames on African Americans — is, in his eyes, washing over Belleville, and members of the once-proud white working class are powerless and directionless, victims in their own community....

Romanik frequently comments on politicians’ sex lives and masculinity and has long referred to County Board Chairman Mark Kern as a cross-dresser.
I looked at Hodgkinson's Facebook page before it was taken down -- none of this jibed with his politics. And yet Holley writes as if Hodgkinson would have been a fan because Hodgkinson was angry, as if there's one variety of political anger and it resonates with all angry people, regardless of their specific beliefs. Holley has this viewpoint confirmed for him by Romanik himself, who says that Hodgkinson might have been a fan.
“I can’t say for sure if this Hodgkinson guy listened to me, but he probably did,” Romanik said in a recent interview. “If people would be honest about what drove Hodgkinson to the point of violence, you’d probably see a lot of people right on the same page with him all over the country. But around here, for sure.”
I don't know what Romanik's game is here -- exaggerating his influence, even in the case of a would-be mass murderer? You could credibly argue that Hodgkinson's anger was a reaction to the contempt for progressives expressed by Romanik and other right-wing media voices. In much of the country, angry right-wing political talk all but drowns out the other side, as Robert Leonard, an Iowa, newspaper editor, recently wrote in a New York Times op-ed:
Fox News is always on the TV in diners and other restaurants. In bars, if there isn’t a game on, Fox News is there. If there are a couple of televisions or more, one will most likely be tuned to Fox. And it’s not only TV. It’s radio. Our big “blow torch” conservative radio station out of Des Moines blasts conservative indignation and self-righteousness for hours a day and serves up Sean Hannity for hours every night.
That might explain Hodgkinson's frustration, and the political anger on his Facebook page -- it doesn't explain, or in any way justify, attempted political mass murder.

But Holley really does miss the point. Political anger isn't undifferentiated. It's highly unlikely that the left-wing Hodgkinson took nourishment from right-wing radio rants.

****

But mainstream media writers regularly see lack of ideology where ideology is obvious. Today we have Maureen Dowd returning to the notion that Donald Trump isn't really a Republican:
For all Trump’s insanity, he is in a unique place to do some interesting things because he’s not beholden to the usual suspects. He’s barely even a Republican, so it would be a smart strategy to work with Democrats on the things he agrees with, that Democrats can’t say no to....

Why doesn’t Trump channel all that bile against the establishment and show us his purported negotiating skills by sitting down and working out an actual deal that could benefit a lot of the people in Trump country who need health care rather than backing the “mean” House and Senate plans that are going to hit rural America particularly hard?
Why doesn't Trump do that? Because he's a Republican. Maybe on some issues he's a post-Pat Buchanan paleocon rather than a GOP traditionalist, but he's still GOP all the way. Fox News taught him to hate Democrats. He bashed President Obama for years, then named ideologues like Betsy DeVos and Scott Pruitt to his cabinet. Beyond the apolitical self-dealing and the water-carrying for Putin, he's GOP all the way. Can we please stop talking about this?

No, we can't. Yesterday at Politico, we had former George W. Bush speechwriter Matt Latimer asking, "What If Trump Had Won as a Democrat?" In other words ... what if Trump had bashed Obama as a Kenyan-born pro-jihad appeasenik with a terrible health care plan for years, then made a Mexican-bashing campaign announcement, and won the primaries in America's only ethnically diverse major party? Or what is the point here?

Latimer tells us that
many of Trump’s views—skepticism on trade, sympathetic to Planned Parenthood, opposition to the Iraq war, a focus on blue-collar workers in Rust Belt America—seemed to gel as well, if not better, with blue-state America than red.
My apologies if you spit your drink at the screen when you read that Trump is "sympathetic to Planned Parenthood," but beyond that -- really? This makes up for everything else Trump believes? For everything he said during the Obama years and everything he's done since?

In Latimer's telling, Trump the Democratic president picks Sherrod Brown as his running mate, Joe Biden as his secretary of state, and Michelle Obama as his first Supreme Court pick. I guess we're supposed to find this plausible because we're meant to see Trump's affiliation with the GOP as "transactional" -- except that he's had ample opportunity to cross the aisle in the first months of his actual, non-hypothetical presidency and he's never done it. The simplest explanation for that is -- say it again with me, boys and girls -- Trump is a Republican. Maybe he wasn't one twenty years ago. He's one now, though, however much Latimer may doubt that fact, or Maureen Dowd may be baffled by it.

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