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Tilting at Windmills

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January 2, 2009

PARALLELS.... Back from his awkward stint at the McCain campaign, Michael Goldfarb has returned to blogging at the Weekly Standard, and has an item today about the estimable Greg Sargent departing TPM after a couple of tremendous years.

Goldfarb takes a couple of predictable cheap shots and offers some odd criticism before getting to his point:

Still, for online partisan reporting, TPM set the bar pretty high this election. Republicans have no equivalent outlet. Any strategy to revive the party's fortunes will require developing the kind of online infrastructure the Democrats now have in place, but you can't do that without a bunch of right-wing Greg Sargents.

I've been seeing a lot of these observations lately. Conservatives want to know why they don't have an analogous version of Huffington. And the Center for American Progress. And Media Matters. And MoveOn.org. And now, apparently, TPM. None other than Tom DeLay recently acknowledged how impressed he is with "liberal infrastructure," which he believes now "dwarfs conservatism's in size, scope, and sophistication," and will be "setting and helping to impose the national agenda for the coming years."

It wasn't too terribly long ago that one of the most common concerns among progressives was the complete and total lack of an intellectual infrastructure. Now, however, there's an abundance of conservatives running around saying, "Why can't we have the kind of infrastructure the left has?"

Specifically in response to the TPM observations, Matt Yglesias had a very compelling response to Goldfarb.

The issue, though, isn't that the right doesn't have an outlet equivalent to TPM or other progressive sites. There are tons and tons of conservative media outlets, most of them with a web presence, and the web presences of places like Goldfarb's Weekly Standard blog would be higher if they were breaking interesting news the way ThinkProgress, HuffingtonPost, TPM, Washington Independent, etc. do. What the right lacks are people with the skill to do the job.

The one time I can recall the conservosphere leading the charge on a legitimate story, the thing with Dan Rather and the national guard memos, they got tons of traffic and attention. And lord knows the conservative media has lots of money and plenty of staff. But almost none of that stuff is going to people who report competently. Instead, you get a lot of wild conspiracy theories and a lot of commentary. The progressive blogosphere involves plenty of commentary, of course, and relies a decent amount on reporting done by the non-ideological media. But the right, for all its loathing of the allegedly liberal MSM, is actually entirely dependent on it and the cable-Drudge nexus to advance stories. As Goldfard indicates, there's just no independent capability. But it's not a lack of outlets that's the problem.

I think this can be applied even more broadly to the rest of the infrastructure discussion. The problem isn't the disappearance of conservative parallel institutions, it's that the institutions themselves simply aren't doing impressive work. The left has the Center for American Progress; the right has the Heritage Foundation. One has been doing important research and shaping the policy discourse; the other is called the Heritage Foundation. The left has Media Matters; the right has the Media Research Center. One has had an important impact; the other is run by Brent Bozell.

There are institutions in place that can play a role in a "strategy to revive the party's fortunes," but that's obviously not enough.

Steve Benen 4:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (46)

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The Right also has talk radio, dwarfing the good guys in size, scope, and influence in that area. As Kos has observed, talk radio is suited to the conservative mind (such as it is), the "blogosphere" (hope for 2009: better terminology) to the liberal one. They dwarf us on the airwaves with Hugh Hewitt, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the rest of those crazy numbskulls; we dwarf them over here with Kos, Josh Marshall and his crew, Kevin Drum, Atrios, and--playing to the home crowd--Steve Benen.

The difference is, our medium is ascendant, theirs is stagnant. Same could be said about our philosophies.

Posted by: Chocolate Thunder on January 2, 2009 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

The problem for the right-wing media outlets and thinktanks is that most of them never really had to work for a living during the Republican ascendancy. Just throw out some red meat sound bites to the frothing masses and that was all they needed.

During the Bush years these outlets became basically nesting areas for wingnut welfare, abandoning even the slim pretense of competence or professionalism they might have offered earlier.

Now they're completely confused. The old red meat issues just don't resonate with an exhausted and bankrupted population anymore, and they have no idea what's required to turn their fortunes around.

Which to me is a good thing, actually, because it leaves them only two options:

1) Learn to be competent and professional, or

2) Be losers. Forever.

I'm thinking it's going to be Door Number Two for them because they don't have a functioning brain between them.


Posted by: Curmudgeon on January 2, 2009 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

What the right also lacks is the interest of a majority of 20 and 30 somethings. I would suspect that has a lot to do with their inability to get a foot hold on the web. They probably never thought the younger generations would grow up. It's a costly mistake, since they've taken zero interest in our generations, until apparently now. Too little, too late.

Posted by: Mick on January 2, 2009 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

The difference is they have all the intellectual heft of George W. Bush and we have Barack Obama. They started the modern conservative movement on bullshit and lies. It shouldn't be any wonder as it all comes tumbling down around their ears that Stephen Colbert's act looks more realistic by the day.

Posted by: markg8 on January 2, 2009 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with all points.

Though those of us on the more liberal and progressive side of things should not take anything for granted.

Remember, these folks still have a lot of money and connections to large corporations in the traditional media outlets in entertainment like radio, cable, television, and music. Despite declines in those mediums, they are not going to disappear anytime soon.

I think the key here is to remain vigilant and treat the incoming Obama administration with the same level of honest objectivity and response as had been dealt the previous administrations. This will keep us ahead of the right-wing.

Posted by: Mathew on January 2, 2009 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

The funniest thing about Goldfarb's piece is that after saying Sargent is a partisan hack who has no interest in objective truth, he concludes that that's what the right wing needs. Now just imagine how Sargent's readers would react if he made that argument. The right is all heat and no light, and they don't even pretend otherwise.

Posted by: Danp on January 2, 2009 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Steve correctly notes, however, that pre-Dean and the hint his 2004 campaign provided of the synergies the left could acheive with the netroots, the left often lamented that we lacked the policy/message infrastructure of the Right.

The real lesson here is not that somehow we are inherently better than they are. The real lesson here is that you cannot be complacent, even for a cycle. One minute the Right was way out in front; they blinked, their messengers got lazy, the left rallied around the "new" medium of the internet and next thing you know everything is reversed.

But it could just as easily be us on the wrong side of the next reversal unless we remain energized, vigilent, and looking for the Next Thing rather than re-fighting the last war (like the Repubs thought they could do endlessly).

Posted by: zeitgeist on January 2, 2009 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

I think the reason the right will not be able to compete with TPM, Kos, CAP, et al. is because they are not interested in the truth.

TPM a partisan group is still interested in the truth. It will report on the Sago de Blago. But will the right leaning sites do the same for a republican governor?

The right rallies around their indicted and convicted felons. The left says go to prison.

The left has convictions and stand by them. The right has criminal convictions and does not understand why.

IOKIYAR is not going to generate support from activists. And that is all the right has online.A morally bankrupt philosophy.

Posted by: cheflovesbeer on January 2, 2009 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

As I was reading, I thought "because they're not smart enough" but it's more than that. Put their message on a fun and newsy website like HuffPo, and it's not fun or newsy. TPM? Fugget it. MMfA? Har.

It's like IE vs. Firefox (even though my anti-virus makes me use IE on the laptop). I'll use IE but I prefer Firefox. Past vs future, etc.

1-20-09 !!

Posted by: boc on January 2, 2009 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

The biggest difference is in fundamental worldviews. Right wingers respect (hell, need) top down authority with black and white, intractable talking points. You can make that happen pretty easily with a few, coordinated "think tanks" and talk radio shitheads. Tougher to do with the freewheeling internets, what with their inherent power to the people (e.g., this blog comment!) questioning authority and ability for nuance. Hell, the White House actually invited wingnut bloggers for several visits to get their collective story straight. But this medium won't let that happen for too long. That could certainly change, but for the moment it's Advantage: Liberals. Huzzah!

Posted by: ed on January 2, 2009 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

Cheflovesbeer beat me to the punch. I don't mind partisanship but the right has been dealing excrement for so long, I don't think they can do anything else. If they did report honestly, they would have to change their view of reality and it's been evident for eons that they don't want to do that.

Posted by: sb on January 2, 2009 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Agree with most comments. The other problem with the rightwing sites beyond sheer lack of competence is the price they paid for their lockstep defense of George Bush over the last 8 years. That level of denial and groupthink excluded anyone with a functioning brain and a modicum of intellectual integrity. The idea of a "Republican intellectual" became an oxymoron. They sacrificed what originality and integrity they had for the chance to associate themselves with the powerful. Now the torch is passing and they have to relearn how to think.

But they will always have talk radio for the less intellectually inclined.

Posted by: Mimikatz on January 2, 2009 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

I think something other than talent is at work. It is no accident that the most "visable" outlets in the conservative media outlet are products of old-school technologies (radio and television). Hate radio's audience may be huge, but that particular technological forum's day has long since set. Fox News also has a distinct, retro, throwback look and feel to it. Maybe they've over-busied the display with creepy crawls and grafs, but its still filled by peroxide blondes and guys who look like Madison Avenue/IBM central casting, circa 1959 in the hayday of Billy Wilder.

Posted by: Esoth on January 2, 2009 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Until the Right sees the great value in providing readers with collaborative observation and reasoned argument, its enterprise will fail because too many closed repeatable-patterned stories over some much time has lead the rest of us - liberal and libertarian - to find no credibility in their blogish ineptitude! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 2, 2009 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Well they can't change their doctrine now can they?

Bereft of ideas, rejected by the mainstream, we get what we deserve.

Posted by: dontcallmefrancis on January 2, 2009 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Eeesh. Saying that Heritage or the MRC haven't had an impact on policy discussion is chronologically myopic.

...the institutions themselves simply aren't doing impressive work...

Both you and Yglesias miss the larger point, Steve. The real difference isn't reporting skill or having big enough media outlets to let people know what's going on. Simply put, liberals more frequently let the the world inform their views while conservatives let their views create their worlds...and when supporting the home team supercedes supporting the facts, you lose credibility...

If no one believes what you say or thinks you don't know what the hell you are talking about, it doesn't matter if you have a planet-sized megaphone. You lose your cred, and you're pretty much done.

Posted by: grape_crush on January 2, 2009 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

"Fox News...its still filled by peroxide blondes..." - Esoth

Or "razor-wire Barbies" as I like to think of them. ;)

Posted by: Curmudgeon on January 2, 2009 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

The article and posters have pretty well summed up the differences between conservative and liberal approaches, but here's a slightly different take that I think also applies:

"conservatives" want to have their preconceived notions confirmed and do not want to hear contradictory information.

The people who deal with reality will be successful. The people who don't deal with reality will fail. While I believe that conservatives have always been detached from reality, liberals got a bit detached in the late '70s and '80s and the conservatives hit a chord with lower taxes, deregulation, and such. But there's only so much cutting that can be done and people are seeing the effects of lower taxes and deregulation.

The politicians that pay more attention to what matters to the general population will succeed. Right now the issues are jobs, health care, and jobs (yes, it was an intentional repeat), and if conservatives keep up their behavior of late they will be hurting more in the next election. But liberals need to make sure they focus on these issues or they won't benefit as much as they could.

Posted by: nerd on January 2, 2009 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

We shouldn't pat ourselves on the back too quickly. Only a handful of left leaning bloggers can actually make a living blogging. Advertising rates still suck.

The Right Wing Blogosphere, such as it is, doesn't have the feel of a collaborative effort. With the singular exception of the Dan Rather story, it approaches its work with the same top down single mindedness of Talk Radio.

When I watch Steve Benen, Josh Marshall or Kevin Drum on television I think I am watching an old friend. I wonder how many dittoheads have that feeling.

Not to Hilzoy, did you ever notice that the many important bloggers use their real names.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 2, 2009 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Note to Hilzoy. Not not to Hilzoy.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 2, 2009 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

The right had a great amount of success with AM radio in it's day, so it was natual that they tried to port that approach over to the web and the blogs. What they failed to take into account is how easily facts are checked on the internet.
You can't fact check someone like Limbaugh when you're driving down a road. You have to either believe him, or not.

This gave them great license to spin and distort facts into any desired shape. It became SOP. When they tried to move this operation to the web, it became apparant to even casual consumers of political news that they were either lying, or insane.

Without facts to work from, the right wing blogosphere is a 2 trick pony. When they're not commenting on someone else's commentary, they're whining that the media is failing to spin the facts to their liking.

They're not going to get anywhere with online media distribution until they navigate back to reality. Then again, reality hasn't served them very well.

Posted by: JoeW on January 2, 2009 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

is it wrong for me to laugh everytime i read this ?

"I am really and truly frightened by the collapse of support for the Republican Party by the young and the educated." - Conservative David Frum 11/16/08

Posted by: mr. irony on January 2, 2009 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

mr. irony,

I laugh every time I read it too.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 2, 2009 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

It isn't really even the lack of competence. The Right's outlets are crank spouts. Just peruse the email you can get from Human Events, they are raving mad buffoons.

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on January 2, 2009 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Michael Goldfarb could lead by example and forswear punditry (or whatever he calls his jive-ass bloviating) for legwork. But we know from newsroom statistics that the overwhelming majority of people attracted to the trade of investigative journalism are liberals or left-leaning, so fat chance of Goldfarb picking up that gauntlet.

Posted by: kth on January 2, 2009 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

I completely disagree with the folks who think this situation might reverse. For me, it's all about our models of thinking. Conservatives are authoritarians with a top-down infrastructure. They get their marching orders and obey. This is well-suited for passive mediums like talk radio, where even dissenting callers will be drowned out and hung up on by the jerk running the show. No verification of the "facts" will be given or possible. It's all about trusting the person you're listening to and there are no links to click to verify facts or gain better context.

Liberals, on the other hand, are bottom-up people and we don't like to be told what to think. Sure, we'll adopt talking points, but even those are done in our own way. And so the internets is good for us because we can all set up our blogs and say our own things. Josh Marshall isn't going to wait to be told what to research. That's why he formed his blog: Original material. Same with my blog. I absolutely refuse to write things that I think people are getting elsewhere. And same with Carpetbagger. Liberal bloggers are not interchangeable. Conservative bloggers are just different styles saying the same message, and the only differences between them is in-fighting on which Republicans are traitors who should be purged. You read one conservative blog, you've read them all.

And this just isn't going to change. Conservatives are NOT going to form their own brains. They'll wait for their marching orders and try to fulfill them. And liberals will NEVER give up their original blogs. It's against our nature. The Dem leadership can use Kos to convey a message, but it will only resonate if it was something good. But if anything, the internet is doom for conservatives, as we can quote their words and hold them to what they say. Rush Limbaugh will NEVER be a blogger.

BTW, I have absolutely zero belief that even Rathergate came from the wingnuts. It was planted with them, just as the leadership planted the Lewinsky story with Drudge. These guys only get orders from above. Everything else is just rumor-mongering conspiracies which riff on whatever the approved talking point is.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on January 2, 2009 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Note to Hilzoy, did you ever notice that the many important bloggers use their real names.

You mean like Atrios and Digby?

Posted by: Thlayli on January 2, 2009 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

It's not a coincidence that most of the reichwing's websites don't allow open posting of commentary (or any posting at all). And those sites that do allow universal posting access, such as Free Republic and Little Green Footballs, will quickly zot any countervailing viewpoints. (Imagine any rethug site tolerating and allowing to persist as much by way of challenging commentary as we have to contend with here, or at HuffPo, or Salon, or, well, pretty much any progressive site.)
But as other posters have noted above, this muzzling of opposing voices is intrinsic to the right's (and the Republican party's) essence.
Which means that, just as Republican control of the entire government has led directly (and arguably inevitably) to the Rethugs' current waning, any move by the right to emulate the progressive blogosphere's normal MO would, I think, also inherently self-destruct over time. If that is what happens, might prove entertaining to watch.

Posted by: smartalek on January 2, 2009 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

It is because they are 'tards.

Posted by: cal state disneyland on January 2, 2009 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Kevo and smartalek: I agree on many points, but it's not just that their MO requires quashing all opposing viewpoints, it also requires quashing a lot of supporting viewpoints, because nearly any open forum populated by conservatives quickly becomes a nest of blatant racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry. The GOP can't tolerate having its fundamental nature so openly displayed, so their Powers that Be are careful not to associate themselves closely with Freepers and LGF, and the "prominent" conservative bloggers don't allow comments.

In other words, their failure at mass-participation forums is directly tied to the basic dishonesty of their political appeal, and one won't change until the other does.

Posted by: Redshift on January 2, 2009 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

One: Liberals have a well known bias for truth, which means facts, references, double checking; as pointed out ably in the post and comments, Right Wingnuts are bloviators who eschew the truth (I think they prefer lies, but that's another story) and wouldn't know how to do their homework if they ever thought of doing it.

Two: It's interesting that the two media watchdog sites referenced are both driven by people who started out as conservative spinmeisters -- David Brock, who saw the light (and I wish somebody would find out how THAT happened) and this Bozell person who is relatively new to me (I don't get out much I guess) and has not apparently seen the light.

Posted by: SF on January 2, 2009 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

I'm going to agree with Grape_Cursh and Doctor Biobrain.

GC pointed out

liberals more frequently let the the world inform their views while conservatives let their views create their worlds

DB said

Conservatives are authoritarians with a top-down infrastructure. They get their marching orders and obey.

An important point to remember is that the right-wingers attack anyone who presents reports that contradict the current "talking points." This is true of all top down authoritarians, including left wing ones.

If you have an organization that hires writers and puts first priority on their ideology before they start writing, analytical writers need not apply What's a reporter to do if he reports the facts, analyzes them and finds the rational conclusion does not match the current word of the day? Somehow David Brooks appears to have at least in part overcome this problem.

Conservative reporting rather clearly starts with what the writers believe is true and then the reporting consists of cherry-picking the available facts to support that truth. Liberal thought in contrast starts with the question, collects all the available facts, and tries to see where the facts lead. I'd say the skill sets are very different.

Also, Liberals have to be a lot more flexible in their world views. So do good reporters. How can rigid conservative reporters compete with reporters willing to actually change what they believe to match the facts they encounter? The standard for the conservative reporter will be "Does this report match the doctrine?" The standard for a liberal reporter will be "Does this report include all the facts and logically explain them?"

Posted by: Rick B on January 2, 2009 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Something to worry about: if an authoritarian group with capital cannot successfully compete in a given medium, then the obvious solution is to limit the reach of that medium and/or restrict access to it.


Posted by: josef on January 2, 2009 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't get lulled into a false sense of security. The Right Wing Noise Machine and its foot soldiers have not gone away, they just haven't found an argument that will allow them to get any traction. They're as venomous as ever, and their hatred of everything liberal is undiminished. Besides, it's a favoured tactic to pretend intimidation at some liberal figure or icon, just so it/they will remain poorly defended. Remember how they used to pretend to suck their teeth at how scared they were to face Hillary Clinton in the general? Without dragging up all that Clinton/Obama stuff again, I still believe they much preferred to take on Clinton, and had a pretty solid campaign prepared for that eventuality.

Posted by: Mark on January 2, 2009 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

In Krugman's column today, there's this little gem:

[...] after the 2000 election the Heritage Foundation specifically urged the new team to “make appointments based on loyalty first and expertise second.”

If Heritage Foundation -- which is supposed to be a "*think* tank" -- is urging this kind of behaviour (sing the praise of ignorance), how can any coherent (never mind "constructive") thought be expected from the Repub hoi-polloi?

Posted by: exlibra on January 2, 2009 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

When Olbermann or Maddow or any of the progressive bloggers screw up, they issue corrections and/or apologies. They report from an ideological standpoint, which isn't hidden or obscured, but is still based in reality. The problem the right has is that their position is based on obscuring the truth and diverting attention from what really matters. Until they can develop a philosophy that's reality-based, they're screwed, IMO.

Posted by: PeteCO on January 2, 2009 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

Mark says "I still believe they much preferred to take on Clinton, and had a pretty solid campaign prepared for that eventuality."

Exactly. Which is a big reason why I didn't support her, and I know I'm not alone in that.

Posted by: PeteCO on January 2, 2009 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

So..the Right is finally figuring out whining that "liberals are facists", hating every Democrat on earth and generally sounding like Rush Limbaugh is not enough?

Imagine that. Well, more or less..I doubt many will admit that out loud.

I don't mean to be obnoxious but are there any serious conservative bloggers? I have conservative friends but they don't sound like like Glenn Reynolds or the blowhards at National Review. A few may be realizing how insular they are.

Maybe. Or they'll be back to blaming everything on media bias.

Posted by: Miss Otis on January 2, 2009 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

It's new news that the only "talented" Republicans are the ones who can't travel outside the country for fear they'll end up in a cell at the Hague???

Remember how it was - what? 3 years ago? 4? - that TPM was a glorified blogspot.com site Josh was running while looking for a real job?

What the fascists don't realize is that a whole lot of people HATE THOSE MOTHERFUCKERS and we were willing to work our asses off to defeat them. Of course, the final defeat won't come till 2010, but they're on life support now.

Posted by: TCinLA on January 3, 2009 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

The problem goes deeper.

Right wing outlets are more interested in putting forth a conservative POV than in actual policy analysis. There are leftie organs like this, but they tend to identify with socialism and they tend to be highly marginal in the US. The Daily Kos is probably an exception.

TPM for example concerns itself with muckraking more than being The Progressive Voice. Modern conservatives are simply more ideological.

Still, the conservative movement still possesses a great noise machine. But I wonder whether serious-minded conservatives like Gregory Mankiw feel a little lonely at times.

Posted by: Measure for Measure on January 3, 2009 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

Complacency is unbecoming. The right still has the ability to clean the left's clock, should Obama stumble---as he certainly will.

Spend a good news day following conservative media--online, Fox, talk-radio. You will be amazed at how coordinated the message is. The left infrastructure spins in a hundred different directions; the right hammers the same point home.

Obama really should have won 60 percent of the vote, given the conditions in America after 8 years of Bush. The fact that he didn't speaks to the impressive message discipline of the right--and make no mistake, that will loom large over the next 4 yrs.

Posted by: squibs on January 3, 2009 at 6:22 AM | PERMALINK

Normal people in this situation would sit down and think of ways to fix the problem. ReThuglicans will scream and whine because the icky LIEberuls have something nice and they don't and it's not fair WAAAAH!

I'm reminded of RedState's freakout when its website became laden with fail. It wasn't enough that E.E. acknowledge the problem and ask for donations. Nope, the fact that his website was crap stemmed from the fact that webdesign people were all nasty liberals and wouldn't work for him for free.

Posted by: tAwO 4 That 1 on January 3, 2009 at 7:57 AM | PERMALINK

There is a lot of great commenting here, which I think is basically why liberal blogs are vastly superior to conservative ones. But that I suspect is the danger. The liberal/progressive blogisphere arose while we were in the wilderness, having control of not one branch of the Federal Government. Now we control two and with the death or resignation of one conservative on the Supreme Court we will control all three.

We now stand before the precipice. The Progressive/Liberal/Populist coalition we have formed to depose Boy George II and all his minions will begin to strain simply because we are in charge. We could see this during the Primary, when the invective between Obama supporters and Clinton supporters was ripping at the comdity of our online community. We can see it with the reaction to the choice of Rick Warren to perform the Invocation at the Inagural.

Presented with this reality, we have a choice. We can either learn to better suffer the differences of opinion we have, which history shows is very difficult. After all, one always has to destroy the heretic or apostate before the heathen and unconverted. Or we can, as the Republicans were forced to do when they created their unholy alliance of theocratic/commerce/anti-government conservatives, surpress all internal dissent by ruling from top. I can not image we will do the later, so we are forced to do the former or simply face the danger of breaking into pieces.

I believe however that we have one advantage over conservatism over the coming decade. Our coalition is a natural majority of this country, theirs, as I call it, is an unholy alliance and not a natural majority, despite the delusions of Turdblossom.

The Republicans now must try to reframe themselves simply because they have lost power and credibility. They can seek either to be a pure, hard but ultimately small party dominate only in an ever shrinking South (they've lost most of Virginia for instance), or they can try to be an open, soft and possibly growing party if they can define a post-Reagan, post-BGII philosophy they can all embrace. With Obama in charge the conservatives may be able to accept a more open discussion of what that philosophy must be, but I agree it is in the nature of conservatism to oppose open discussion like we have here. And it took years for the likes of William F. Buckley to drive 50s era wingnuttery out of the conservative movement. 90s and 00s wingnuttery may be even harder to drive out of the modern conservative movement simply because the Internet expands their venues of expression and reduces their cost of participation. Thus it will be harder for them, even forced into opposition again, to find common philosophy that is more than air and fantasies.

The gravest danger to the United States is that Obama will be wonderfully effective and cure what ails us by 2012, and the Republicans will once again run on the argument that you can't trust prosperty and surpluses to the Democrats. It's an argument that didn't actually work in 2000, but it got them close enough to cheat (of course, as Cheney told Chaffee after the election, they were cheating in what they were promising too).

We have to be ready to point to Boy George II and the Delay/Boehner Congress and simply say that we can't trust Republicans with Peace and Prosperity EVER.

And yes, Republicans whine.

Posted by: Lance on January 3, 2009 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

while i agree with nearly all the comments here...i want to support those who say the left ignores the echo chamber of mass media at their
peril....just saw an article about cable news ratings yesterday, and while all three networks increased their total viewership, and msnbc and cnn had a percentage increase greater than fauxnews, faux still has over 40% more viewers than cnn...

Posted by: dj spellchecka on January 3, 2009 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

The big problem now for the conservatives is that they have been thoroughly discredited. Any revival of fortune for them depends on their response to real problems in the country — problems which they can't even identify. Among other things, this implies a brain drain. The young bloods in politics today are driven by issues like healthcare, the environment, and social justice. Conservatives have nothing to offer them, nothing to say to them. Indeed, through their conduct in office and exercise of power, conservatives have alienated the next two generations of potential talent.

And that's just one symptom of movement failure which the right will have to address going forward. The arrogance, incompetence, dereliction, corruption, and gravely foolish public policy ideas of its champions have created a foul stench around today's conservative movement. And despite two cleaning cycles at the polls, the stink remains around the rump of the Republican Party.

Posted by: Big River Bandido on January 3, 2009 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

As this article points out, there are numerous opportunities for the rightwingers to get their point of view out. The problem is the quality of the people getting that view out. An Englishman, whose name I forget, said something to the effect that "not all conservatives are stupid, but most stupid people are conservative." That is their problem in a nutshell.

Then there is the problem that the winger fraternity is basically a faith based operation that only has a distant acquaintance with facts and reality. That doesn't work when you are face to face with reality and what happens to you depends on how you react to reality. In order to function well, you need to understand and appreciate how fact based reality operates so that you can behave in a manner that is in harmony with reality. When you are faith based, however, then you can't recognize what is happening around you or why it is happening. Neither can you predict with any accuracy what is likely to happen under different scenarios. Your faith and dogma just don't allow you to see the world as it is.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on January 4, 2009 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK



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