Wednesday, September 15, 2021


In a California recall post-mortem, Charlie Sykes quotes an Election Eve column by Clay Risen of The New York Times:
The election ... represented the ascendancy (and vulnerability) of the entertainment wing of the GOP. As Risen noted:
[Larry] Elder isn’t a serious politician; he’s running not to win, but to raise his media profile. But that very fact says something about today’s Republican Party. Many of its highest-profile figures blur the line between politician and celebrity, and act accordingly, even if their success as the latter undermines what we expect out of the former. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn — and, yes, Larry Elder — are only nominally politicians. In substance, they’re entertainers.
I don't agree with that characterization.

It's true that Greene and Cawthorn (and their evil triplet, Lauren Boebert) aren't exactly legislators; they don't try very hard to write, negotiate, and pass bills. But calling them "entertainers" suggests that they're nothing more than harmless fillers of their fans' leisure time. That's not what they are.

They're actually grievance encouragers. Their job is to validate their supporters' anger, and to give them new reasons to feel angry. That's also the job of talk radio hosts like Elder.

This isn't like watching Netflix. It serves a political purpose: keeping supporters and listeners angry, primarily at Democrats. The Republican Party benefits because these people will never, ever vote for a Democrat no matter how little they get from the GOP, because the grievance encouragers have made clear to them that Democrats embody all the evil in America. It seems like entertainment to Risen because the Republican base clearly enjoys having its grievances encouraged. But the base responds to grievance like a drug, craving a greater and greater dose. The more that's consumed, the angrier the base gets at Democrats.

Risen says that Elder ran "not to win, but to raise his media profile" -- something that's also been said about Trump in 2016. Trump primarily earned his living as an entertainer for many years before he became a grievance encourager on Fox & Friends, his stepping stone to the presidency. He made his half of America angrier and did other very dangerous and destructive things as president. He's still doing them as a grievance encourager today.

When you encourage Republican voters' grievances the way these people do, you make it seem reasonable to suppress the votes of Democrats, or even overturn elections Democrats win. The Republican Party -- and the billionaires who back it -- benefit greatly from that. It's not fun and games.

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