Our political Qutoes of the Day come from David Frum and John Avlon on the conservative news media that many now believe played a major role in helping Republicans lose a White House that a year ago seemed ripe for the partisan picking.
The now popular narrative — I have written about it for literally years — is that many 21st century conservatives have allowed themselves to not just slip into an alternate universe but assume that a)most people in the country are in that universe too and if they only repeated what they believe and don’t like all of American would agree, d)rich talk show hosts who fly on their own or rented jets can provide them with an accurate list of facts upon which they can form judgement c)highly ideological news personalities talking to like minded people reflect the way most Americans feel and, d)that facts don’t matter to many Americans — including many thoughtful Republicans?
The problem with Fox and the rest is not only – or even primarily – that they duped conservatives about Mitt Romney’s likely margin in the Electoral College.
The problem is the steady stream of misinformation they feed about basic matters of government: such as that the United States spends $1 trillion a year on “welfare”; or that taxes went up in President Obama’s first term ; or that the economy did not grow over the past two years. All false, all frequently reported; all widely believed.
It will be a great first step when conservatives insist upon accurate political information. But the job cannot be considered finished until conservatives reject media that feed them false information about public policy as well.
Yes, facts and yes, fact-checks, we’ve just learned do matter to an election-winning-number of Americans.
Believing in their own convenient facts has hurt Republicans as well as the republic. Blinded by the landslide powered by the Tea Party two years ago, the GOP confused the midterm electorate—narrow and ideologically intense—with the broader, more representative portion of the American public who turns out to vote in presidential contests.
Trying to apply the 2010 playbook to 2012 didn’t work, and unhinged anti-Obama intensity only alienated moderate voters who ended up supporting the president’s reelection by a 16-point margin.
Rejected by much of the more levelheaded center, the party’s isolation was amplified by the demographic fault lines now shaping our political landscape. Young Americans, women under 50, African-Americans, and Hispanics overwhelmingly voted for Obama. White men and senior citizens, meanwhile, formed the core of Mitt Romney’s support.
“Too many Republicans are in stage I of the five phases of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance,” says former Bush strategist and Daily Beast columnist Mark McKinnon. “I just hope we get to No. 5 at some point soon.”
To accept and understand what happened in this presidential election, Republicans will need to face what their parallel political universe has wrought. In the past two election cycles, the elevation of far-right candidates—including Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock—has cost the Republicans at least five Senate seats they would have otherwise won. The deeper costs come from the insular arguments and the elevation of figures like Ayn Rand into an alternative canon.
Ironically, a movement that prides itself on individualism ends up promoting groupthink. To avoid the appearance of a party left talking to itself in the corner, Republicans will need to reach out beyond their base and rebuild Reagan’s fabled functional big tent—remembering that the essence of evangelism is winning converts, not simply preaching to the choir.
May I say:
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.