By coincidence (?), David "Bobo" Brooks in his column for Friday, The Wizard of BeckNew York Times 10/02/09, says we should just ignore those prominent Republican hatemongers - he doesn't use the word - like Rush, Glenn Beck and so on. Nobody is paying attention to what they say, Bobo assures us. Don't waste time paying any attention to them. They have no influence in the Republican Party.
No, I'm not kidding. He continued making the argument over the weekend. Bobo is a good bellwether for pitches we can expect to hear from Republicans who want to be seen as clean-shaven and reassuring - but without going so far as to break with their Party on anything important.
If we take Bobo's "analysis" at face value, it largely misses the point. Limbaugh may not be able to control primary elections. But with the Republicans' Mighty Wurlitzer (their network of partisan media outlets including FOX News that airs Glenn Beck) slings sleaze at Democrats furiously 24/7. And to a large extent, the Mighty Wurlitzer defines the terms of public debates, not least because the mainstream media looks to them for stories to flog. As Glenn Greenwald noted sourly on Twitter 10/04/09 about David Gregory's Meet the Press interview with US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice: "David Gregory's sources for his questions today: Charles Krauthammer on Iran and Newt Gingrich's Twitter feed." That would be neocon warmonger columnist Charles Krauthammer and long-ago Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, whose every utterance for some unfathomable reasons seems to important in the eyes of our Great Pundits.
Earlier in the week, Bobo's own "public editor" Clark Hoyt at New York Times wrote (Tuning In Too Late 09/26/09) that the Times wasn't paying enough attention to movement conservatives' favorite issues. And wrote reported:
Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, agreed with me that the paper was “slow off the mark,” [on the ACORN story] and blamed “insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio.” She and Bill Keller, the executive editor, said last week that they would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies. Keller declined to identify the editor, saying he wanted to spare that person “a bombardment of e-mails and excoriation in the blogosphere.” [my emphasis]
Given the context, something tells me the new, anonymous "opinion media" monitoring editor isn't going to be expected to devote large amounts of his time to reading Digby, Marcy Wheeler or Aimai.
The Tea Party and Hate Radio factions of the Republican Party also have the function of energizing the base. And, in practice, firing up the paranoid and violent fantasies of the "patriot militia" types. And, weirdly enough, Brooks points out in his article that Republican politicians in Congress do pay close attention to what characters like Beck and Limbaugh say. He's arguing that they should ignore them to.
But surely he knows that's not going to happen. The columns seems to me directed more at the rest of us. It's also striking that he uses a metaphor from The Wizard of Oz:
So what is the theme of our history lesson? It is a story of remarkable volume and utter weakness. It is the story of media mavens who claim to represent a hidden majority but who in fact represent a mere niche — even in the Republican Party. It is a story as old as "The Wizard of Oz," of grand illusions and small men behind the curtain.
But it was the devious Wizard himself who told Dorothy and her companions to pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Just as Bobo is telling us to pay no attention to the ideological shock troops of the Republican Party.
Meanwhile, here's a hint of how fastidious the Maverick and his faux "moderates" are likely to be about the company they keep. From the Maverick's Twitter feed today: "Great to be back on with Don Imus again, congrats to his whole team - Bernie, Charles, and Warner!"
In another facet of this "moderate Republican" dog-and-pony shows, Politico reports that senior Republicans are at least going throught the public motions of reining in Party Chairman Michael Steele (GOP leaders to Michael Steele: Back off by Manu Raju and Jonathan Martin 10/05/09).
In another part of that MTP appearance, Rachel Maddow gave Bobo a chance to apply his theory after he made the observation: pay no attention to Sarah Palin! I mean, she's only one of the favorite figures on the Christian Right, the hard core activist and voter base of the Party. From the transcript:
GREGORY: But, but, but, but the issue of influence, whether the, the harshness of the debate becomes what controls the politics and ultimately influences who emerges to the top of a political party, which is still a question for Republicans.
MR. BROOKS: There's no evidence--Barack Obama was not evidence of that harshness, John McCain was not evidence of that harshness. The people who actually vote, even in primaries, who are pretty hard-core people, they don't go for that. So it's a, it's a margin on the edge. And if Sarah Palin is the nominee, the Republican nominee, I'll eat my hat. I'll eat this cup on the air. But she will not be, because people just don't like that style of politics.
But then Maddow initiates the following exchange with "Republican strategist" Mike Murphy and liberal New York Times columnist E.J. Dionne, which Bobo sits out:
MS. MADDOW: I, I do think that there's a little bit of reckoning that needs to happen on the right for Sarah Palin's success. I mean, she was the vice presidential nominee, she is going to sell a kazillion books and she is the biggest brand name in Republican politics still right now. And she's chose--the person who's writing her book, her last--the last person who she co-authored a book with was called "Donkey Cons" and it was co-authored with a guy who's widely believed to be and I believe him to be a white supremacist. So she's chosen Lynn Vincent, who's written a book with a white supremacist, to write her book, and she's the biggest name in Republican politics.
MR. MURPHY: Oh, but, Rachel...
MS. MADDOW: And you can dismiss her and say she's not going to be the nominee, but I do think the right needs to sort of answer for what's happened to conservatism.
MR. MURPHY: But let me just say, I am a well-documented nonfan of Sarah Palin, at least as a national politician. I don't know her personally. But that's guilt by association stuff. That's the cable stuff. That's the problem.
MS. MADDOW: But why would you--you can pick anybody to be your ghostwriter.
MR. MURPHY: Sarah Palin's a lot of things, but she's not a white supremacist. And...
MS. MADDOW: You could--no, I don't think she is. But when you can pick anybody, why would she pick somebody who's associated with the League of the South, who said that Americans are revolted by the idea of having a black sister-in-law. I mean, she--this is who she picked to write her book.
MR. MURPHY: Yeah, but there's...
MS. MADDOW: Why do you do that?
MR. MURPHY: That's sort of guilt by association stuff, which I don't know and it can--I--check it out.
MS. MADDOW: It's guilt by choice. It's guilt by choice.
MR. MURPHY: It is, is so, so not important to the central questions in the country right now. But that's what cable TV has become, so I...
MS. MADDOW: Sarah Palin's popularity is a central question in the Republican Party right now.
GREGORY: Quickly, E.J.
MS. MADDOW: And you can make fun of her, but it doesn't make it go away.
MR. DIONNE: Forget guilt by association. Governor Rick Perry may win a Republican primary because he talked about secession. You haven't had somebody win an election on secession since 1858.
MR. MURPHY: Yeah. E.J., I can tell you...
MR. DIONNE: There's a radical strain in the Republican Party. It's not guilt by association, it's right out there.
MR. MURPHY: Yeah, but look...
GREGORY: All right, final thought here, Mike.
MR. MURPHY: Professional political consultant, that one line which you're deducing a complete definition of Perry from, who I oppose in that primary, is not the reason he's going to win. [my emphasis]
Republicans like Mike Murphy and Bobo would much prefer that we pretend that the Republican Party of today is led by marvelous "moderate" mavericks like their adored John McCain. And that we don't hang the kind of politics they are practicing with the Tea Party demagoguery around their necks. But when it comes to Bobo or Murphy criticizing high-profile like Sarah Palin or Rick Perry for their publicly expressed neo-Confederate sympathies, for close involvement with theocratic religious groups like Palin's Third Wave Pentecostals, or even for teaming up with white supremacists and Birchers, they would prefer to avoid that. Or, as we see with Murphy and Perry, defend it. But they would rather that no one hear literate criticism of important Republicans for such things.
I think it's quite revealing that Murphy tried to brush off Palin selecting a neo-Confederate to write her book for her by saying, "That's the cable stuff." This may be a sign of something we can expect to see more of, Republicans accusing Democrats of employing "cable stuff". While refusing to even admit that the torrent of invective and wild accusations that the Mighty Wurlitzer direct at Democrats non-stop has any effect. And while the Reps pick up the "cable stuff" like death panels as laundered through the broken national press and demands that Democrats address them as serious issues.
Aimai at No More Mister Nice Blog speculates on the Republicans' calculations behind the Palin- and Steele-bashing in Palin and Steele Represent the Same Problem 10/05/09. She does a good job articulating something important about today's Republican Party that I would never have been able to formulate as well. The Republican Party is hostile to women's rights and to needs blacks and Latinos, especially blacks. It's part of their "culture war" identity. Yet at the same time, electoral demographics and the general zeitgeist of the 21st century requires them to put up a front to the general public of not being that way. And so they've found token figures like Palin and Steele to present what we might call a "compassionate conservative" face, to pick a phrase at random.
The catch especially in Steele's is, as Aimai writes, "their base really hates token blacks." And even Palin's biggest fans among the Christian Right must be suffering some cognitive dissonance at the thought of having a woman and a mother with children at home in the role of Commander-in-Chief, as they prefer to call their Republican Presidents. Aimai thinks that what is up is that some Republican bigwigs are trying to set up Palin and Steele to take the fall if the Tea Party strategy produces a nasty backlash against their (Republican) Party. I should warn you that she's being, oh gosh, shrill and partisan!
Palin and Steele are both being sent to stand in the corner--to pay for the failures of the actual leaders of the party. The whole party is essentially made up of old, stupid, white guy *gamblers*--just as McCain made a gamble that by picking Palin he'd get just enough support and excitement to get over the hump and get into the White House[,] they thought that they could somehow, for a short time, parlay Steele's blackness into a short term benefit vis a vis the Democratic party and Obama. He was the default choice but he was their choice and that was fairly explicit in their public reasoning on why he was chosen--he was there to reassure suburban whites that the GOP weren't stone racists. [my emphasis]
She also has more to say on the tokenism issue in the comments. Check it out.