Is the very set of tools that enabled the Republican Party to gain prominence the very thing that is killing it? If we look at the raise of the Conservative movement in this country one of the key things was the idea the media had an inherent liberal bias to it. This was important for a few reasons; it made it possible for Republicans to shrug off reporting which showed their agenda was not what the public wanted, it played a victim meme which dovetailed nicely with the nefarious Southern Strategy (e.g. conservatives were victims of the liberal press just like white working folks were victims of liberal policies) and perhaps most importantly it allowed the creation and legitimating of the Right Wing Echo Chamber.
It is not really an accident that after the Fairness Doctrine was abandoned during the Reagan Administration there was a surge of new far Right voices on the radio. Those with deep pockets in the Conservative movement needed a place to regularly present a different view of things. It was a smart move as it allowed the true believers to have an alternate theory on the events of the day.
This all came into its own during the Clinton Administration. While it was not enough to topple a popular president in a time of economic growth, it was enough to wrest control of the House and Senate as well as pick up many State level seats in 1994. This under the radar stoking of the base provided a cohesion which the Democrats who were having their own internecine fights to be swept out of power.
Using the whipped up scandals and the one real one of the Clinton Presidency, they fanned the flames of their base with lurid tales of drug dealing out of the White House and the supposed murder of Vince Foster. As the Republicans overplayed their cards with impeachment, the next step in the echo chamber was coming to life, Fox News. From its inception it was clear they were pointed towards the farthest right of the right. Any network that has to tell you over and over and over they are “Fair and Balanced” is anything but.
The election of George Bush with its use of the media to present a skewed view of the public’s concern in the “Brooks Bothers Riot” was another step forward. Then the tragedy of 9/11 catapulted the level of fear and hate mongering to new heights. The rhetoric was cranked up to 11 and stayed there in the Right Wing Echo Chamber. Anyone who disagreed to any degree with President Bush was called a traitor. The Echo Chamber was used to smear even musicians as the Dixie Chicks found out.
On the internet new and even more fervently Right Wing websites sprang up and became enormously popular with the “America, Fuck Yeah!” crowd. Now the Echo Chamber was complete, from newspapers to television to the internet there was a place where those on the Right could find news and views that matched their own, and amplified them It was incredibly effective, for a while. It allowed the Republican Party to control the White House and Congress all at once. It helped them spread memes of voter fraud and even leak the name of a covert CIA operative with only the loss of one Chief of Staff to show for it.
However there is a cost. The Echo Chamber was always a high emotion place with drugs, murder and treason being the opening bet, not the final one. The base it had been used to inflame has become addicted to the high of hate and fear. Like all addicts, the old level of stimulation is not enough, there has to be a higher and higher level of stimulation for it give that same high. This has lead the base to become more and more radicalized and more and more prone to calling anyone who they don’t agree 100% with traitors.
Another cost is the fact the core of the Republican political elite has bought the premise that any news which does not come from Fox or World Net Daily or the Editorial Pages of the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post is suspect and can not be trusted. This is very bad as all of these organizations do not have a political party to run, they have a balance sheet to look after. They will continue to feed more and more sensational stories and fan the flames of crazy ideas to keep their readers and watchers coming back for more. They are the pushers feeding the Republican base it drug of choice, fear and hate.
This leads to what looks like flat derangement from the elected Republicans ; whether it is Rep. Michelle Bachman spouting off making pronouncements that health care reform will result in “sex clinics in schools”or Orly Taitz constantly pushing the idea the President is not a citizen or the most recent heinousness of four members of the House of Representative thinking that Muslim American pages are somehow spy’s because of their religion.
To me these people are not being cynical, they really believe the crazy crap they are spouting. It comes from the fact they get their news from an echo chamber which has very little contact with the real world. Anyone can become programmed to see the world a certain way if they are never, ever, exposed to other points of view. Since one of the defining aspects of Republicans has been their discipline, there is even less chance they will seek out differing views.
Worse for their political future, is the activated base that is ready to brand anyone a Republican in name only (Rhino) if they speak out for a new direction. Just this week we have seen one of the most conservative Senators in the Senate Lindsey Graham being heckled and accused of betraying the Party merely for being willing to think about climate change legislation.
All of this leads to the conclusion the Republicans have become victims of the very thing which allowed their ascendancy in the first place the Echo Chamber. They have trained their base to need more and more hyperbolic accusations and demons to be satisfied. This has lead them to have to say and support things which those outside of their base find increasingly crazy. It drives Independents and Moderates away from the Party of Crazy, because they do not get all of their news from inside the Echo Chamber they know many of the things they are being told by the Republicans are just not true. However the Republican elite can not move away from this disastrous course because the Echo Chamber is where all of their core supporters get their news. If they go against the noise of their own creation, they run the risk of being branded traitors to their cause and summarily dumped. Just look at the heat that is being applied to Sen. Snowe over her support of the Baucus Bill. The money making Echo Chamber is not going to help the elected Republicans, because to do so would cost them viewers and money.
All this leaves the Republican Party on a downward spiral. They can’t get free of the Echo Chamber, but by staying in it and with their base, they become less and less relevant to the nation, since their view barely touches reality in any fashion. Until and unless they manage to break out of this trap of their own making, it seems pretty clear they will continue to become less effective as the level of rhetoric required to satisfy the fear and hate addicted base only gets higher and higher.
The floor is yours.
“Originally posted at Squarestate.net”
One late breaking development. Check out this Democracy Corps report on the other world the Republican base is living in!