Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution has an informative–and deeply disturbing–post on the influence of right-wing media on the GOP. As he notes, that media and that influence go well beyond the “usual suspects” like Fox News or Rush Limbaugh.
Mann cites a recent paper by Jackie Calmes, a national correspondent for The New York Times who was Joan Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School this past spring.
Its title, “They Don’t Give a Damn about Governing,” is a direct quote from one of her Republican sources. The subtitle, “Conservative Media’s Influence on the Republican Party,” describes the focus of her impressive research, reporting, and analysis.
Calmes goes well beyond the familiar Fox News and talk-radio celebrities Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham to chart an expanding world of web-based “news” sites and social media outlets closely aligned with far-right groups such as Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth and FreedomWorks. What began as a conservative insurgency nurtured and welcomed by the Republican establishment as a route to majority control of Congress has become a dominant force setting the party’s agenda and forcing repeated brinksmanship. This in turn impedes the Republicans’ ability to govern effectively and to win presidential elections…..
Her paper contains fascinating narrative on lesser-known personalities who have put themselves at the center of linkages between Republican activists and officeholders as well as case studies of why the Republican majority in Congress after the 2014 election has fallen well short of its stated objectives of restoring regular order and governing effectively.
A quote from a long-time, high-level Republican sums up the situation:
“It’s not just talk radio, but the blogosphere, the Internet – they’re all intertwined now. You’ve got this constant chorus of skepticism about anything the quote-unquote establishment does,” said a longtime former top aide to House Republican leaders, Dave Schnittger. And, he said, the chorus is loudest in opposition to those actions that are fundamental to governing: meeting basic fiscal deadlines for funding the government and allowing it to borrow. “Those are the things that leaders have to get done as part of governing,” the Republican said, “as much as conservative media may hate it.”
One of the unsettling realities of the Internet age is the ability to inhabit our preferred realities. Leaving aside the undeniably important question of who is really living in the “reality-based” community, at some point, we need to figure out how to live in a polis that is defined–and divided– by our expanded ability to reside within information bubbles of our own choosing.
And the reasonable Republicans–of whom there are still many–need to figure out how to get their party back.