Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Pundits aren't waiting for the results of the presidential election to do a post-mortem on the Republican Party. At Business Insider, Oliver Darcy and Pamela Engel argue that what's killing the GOP is its lying, conspiracy-mongering media:
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....

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.
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:
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).

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.
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.

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.
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?


New Deal democrat said...

Interesting but I disagree.

Consider that Howard Dean's "50 state strategy" worked well in 2006' in addition to 2008.

As soon as Obama was elected, he dismantled this strategy (focusing all of the party's energy on Himself, and allowed the State parties to wither on the vine.

Also consider that in the midterms, Old People are a disproportionate percentage of the electorate. In 2010 and 2014', that was the Silent Generation, the deepest red demographic of them all, which was voted GOP for half a century. By 2018 they will begin to be supplanted by early Boomers, a light blue demographic.

In other words, the re institution of Dean's strategy would probably work.

mlbxxxxxx said...

The GOP will continue to be the party of lies because the things they believe and hold dear cannot be supported by the unvarnished truth. If conservatives stop lying, they'd have to abandon too many articles of faith so the lies will continue ad infinitum.

Jim Snyder said...

@New Deal democrat: I've wondered why the Democratic Party failed so completely in the 2010 mid-terms (and again in 2014) after what seemed to me to be a transformational campaign in 2008.

What is the evidence that Obama dismantled the 2008 team / campaign infrastructure / whatever?

An alternate hypothesis might be that Obama was busy presidenting, and whoever ran the DNC (I forget) didn't keep the apparatus well-oiled.

Yet another hypothesis might be more-or-less the flip side of what I understand SteveM to be saying, to wit: it's REALLY hard to motivate the Democratic base in mid-terms, even with an overwhelmingly superior GOTV effort.

I'm scrounging for tea leaves here, but Rahm Emanuel was Obama's chief-of-staff for the first two years, and Emanuel was famously dismissive of Dean's 50-state strategery.

Lessee, Wiki tells me that Tim Kaine (!) was Obama's pick to run the DNC in 2009 ... I see this blog post from Feb 2010:

President Barack Obama has made many changes, most for the good. One, however, was bad. He replaced Gov. Howard Dean as Chair of the DNC and appointed Tim Kaine who immediately dismissed the 183 DNC field organizers and terminated the 50 State Strategy. That concept is failing and, as a consequence, Democrats are suddenly losing elections. For four years under Howard Dean the Democratic National Committee funded a 50 state strategy which paid for DNC field organizers on the ground in every state. These organizers built local and county organizations which assisted candidates at every level. What happened and how do Democrats turn things around?

from here:


I know nothing about the blog or blogger, but the assertions in the essay seem consistent with your claims.

FWIW I'm not pushing a PoV, I'm genuinely curious how the GOP managed to do so well in 2010 after flailing in 2008.

I hope that Clinton / Kaine are focused on the mid-terms from Day 1, because the Democrats will be slaughtered in 2018 if mid-term turn-out doesn't improve relative to 2010 and 2014.

IIRC scuttlebutt held that Bill Clinton was indifferent to the task of growing the national party.

Victor said...

The Dem's haven't trained their base to vote in off-Presidential years, while the GOP has - largely, because even without reminding them - older voters who always go to vote.

Further, the rubes in the conservative alternative universe, where in “1984,” they only had “Two-minute hates,” - now, with Rushba the Hutt, among other Reich-Wing radio hosts, (Dumb)Fux “news,” Drudge, twitter, e-mails, etc, - those “Two Minute Hates” are 24 X 7 X 365.

Conservative media puts the "dope," in 'dopamine!'
And that's the only thing their base needs to live.

Buford said...

Maybe the Democrats have learned something? Like how important the mid terms really are? and to return to a winning strategy? ok then...I voted, and I like it...

Jim Snyder said...

@Victor: OK, but what does "haven't trained their voters" mean in practice, if not GOTV and a 50 state strategery?

Steve M. said...

Republicans have a 24/7/365 GOTV machine that runs in all years, whether there's an election or not: It's called Fox News and talk radio.

Victor said...

Don't get me wrong, I'm all FOR a renewal of Dean's "50 State Strategy!"

But try to find the least "Red" "Blue Dog" Democrats to run.

Jimbo said...

Richard Hofstader's seminal piece: "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" was not about the left wing in American politics but about the chronic right wing tendency to engage in wild conspiracies and non-rational thinking. That tendency has been in American politics forever and will continue to be for a long time to come.
The national GOP is a bit like where the Whig Party was in the 1850s in that it was divided between a more progressive wing and the nativist extreme right wing. The progressive wing became the Republicans and the nativists went to the southern Democrats. Of course, the GOP has no progressive wing, which died in the Compromise of 1877. The so-called "Establishment GOP" is a small moderate conservative element with lots of money but relatively few actual followers. Hence, its dependency on manipulating the much larger element of racist and sexist crazies. But this cannot be sustained as a long-term strategy.
If the GOP tries to become more appealing to the center and left, the base will simply form a new RW party and the GOP will go the way of the Whigs. If they continue their current situation of being whip-sawed by the base, they will never again be a national party but rather the party of the South and parts of the West (and even that's looking more fragile).
One of the many mistakes and compromises of the Constitution was allowing the states to make the rules for national elective offices; that's never gone well. So lacking non-party electoral commissions, except in CA, the only alternative is a 50 state GOTV effort and putting resources into continuously making that happen. Not rocket science folks.

Joey Blau said...

"What is the evidence that Obama dismantled the 2008 team / campaign infrastructure / whatever?"

Obama announced that OFA, his election grassroots effort, was changing to be Obama ==> Organizing and that all groups had to coordinate through that entity. Some background http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/18/obama-for-america-to-morph-into-organizing-for-action/

And he told the gays to hand over their lists and OFA would take care of it.. and the antiwar faction had better go home. And the blacks had to wait until the bankers were fixed, and blue dogs are just fine to fund

And in 2010 Obama was nowhere to be seen on the aca. And the DNC etal left the teabaggers run wild with no pushback, and the goddamm gang of six and..

His most active supporters were discouraged and did not "organize " and the resuits were bad. This is the nice Obama that for six years wanted to work with the GOP that hated him. That he watered down his agenda to fit in GOP plans and got zip but insults in return.

Imagine 2016 Obama in 2009.....what he could have done.

Feud Turgidson said...

With all due respect, I think this discussion that started with NDD's shot & JimSnyder's rebuttal (sort of rebuttal) is working with Stone Age or at least Bronze Age tools.

First, the Obama win in 2008 tends to look inevitable in retrospect, but it wasn't; if he hadn't been from Illinois & thus able to exploit the proximity to Iowa & Tom Harkin's then-still-powerful appeal, he'd never have gamed the early surprise that gained him wider notice as a serious threat to win the Dem nom & got him an early lead that allowed the Obama campaign to run out the clock. Remember that after February, certainly mid-March, the mostly slow & largely inept HRC campaign started racking up victories in the majority of Dem state primaries that remained, PLUS don't forget the fluke circumstance of Florida & Michigan, two huge Clinton bastions, being excluded from the process for their state D organizations breaking the rules on primaries timing in the previous cycle.

Next, factor in the Obama had been in DC for like 5 minutes between getting sworn into the Senate then winning the persidency. That's WHY he chose the monstrous Rahm: he simply didn't have any degree of status or relationship currency in DC, and mistook Rahm's (even then fading) status in DC national Dem politics as 'expertise'.

Third, there was a little thing called the FREAKING COLLAPSE OF THE FINANCIAL SYSTEM that kind of took a lot of concentration from the New Dude, plus trying to get the ACA thru to his desk, plus learning WTF these DC animals were. Com'on, people: he said himself in 2012 that he felt like he was just then getting to the point of understanding how DC & the Dem party worked & FREAKING GEOPOLIICS (where the US is a 5 percent player on money & arms steroids) worked in the context of national politics.

And all that learning curve stuff was happening against a backdrop of 3 decades of steady dismantlement of the New Deal, as well as the even more important national educational standards for all but a tiny percentage, with the forces of darkness having their own 24/7 propaganda channel & most of the money that goes into politics at all levels below the presidency, and then even more starkly below the Senate. Declining educational standards brings reduced herd immunity to all manner of lies, including Big Lies.

And THEN we get to the inherent problems in the original design of a republic, with the checks & balances emphasis that inevitably encourages gerrymandering of districts based on local scale tribalism, where one party is far more tribal than the other, which has its only check & counterbalance whatever national standards are in force on the edges - like the fraillimits on campaign funding & the frail standards in the Voting Act, both of which were eviscerated by the rightwing majority in the Supreme Court.

Obama's a remarkable politician, but he's not the Green Lantern. As we watch him now, as we've watched him navigate his way thru 8 years without a crippling party-wide scandal, without being impeached, and still maintaining the republic's full faith & credit status, while getting an important list of things done that fit right into the best of the New Deal & the Just Society, what we're seeing is someone who found his groove DURING his presidency, not in advance of it.

And now consider that he's actually staying in DC and embarking with Eric Holder on the massively challenging redistricting project that clearly aims to overcome one of the big supporting beams of the midterm debacles the Dem party is so vulnerable to (by its very nature), a project that fits right in Sam Wang's prescription for how to address this problem. Well, I'd say, if it's all that easy, then why hasn't someone ELSE been able to get at all this before? Because certainly no one else has.

Philo Vaihinger said...

The midterm voters are older and whiter than presidential year voters, which means too many of ours are sitting them out.

Fact is, we need nonwhites, women, and minorities sliced and diced any other way you like to show up for the midterms and vote habitually, straight Democratic ticket, from top to bottom of the ballot.

80 % of life is just showing up.

Anonymous said...

It is true that the right wing propaganda machine is well oiled, well funded, and relentless. My question is, where are the Democrats? How is it that right wing pundits and politicians get away with championing policies that have resulted in growing inequality and the gutting of the middle class, and the turn around and blame the Democrats? You see this at almost every turn. The Republicans publicly state that they will obstruct Obama as hard as they can, and then get away with blaming him for a lack of bipartisanship, when he advances Republican proposals, such as Romneycare and weakening Social Security. I no longer believe that Democratic politicians are as inept as they appear. I think that to a great extent they have ceded the field.