NYT's Calmes Again Hits 'Far Right' Talk Radio and Steve Deace, Who 'Speaks for Angry Republicans'

November 7th, 2015 7:14 PM

Jackie Calmes, a Washington-based correspondent for the New York Times, "studied" conservative media at Harvard's Kennedy School and produced a 16,000-word screed this summer, "'They Don't Give a Damn About Governing,'" warning that talk radio and Fox News were pushing the Republican Party to the "far right...extreme." She also offered a skewed history of talk radio, while dismissing veteran host Rush Limbaugh and rising star Steve Deace as "college dropouts." 

In this unwanted sequel, which appears in the upcoming Sunday New York Times Magazine, Calmes focused on "Steve Deace and the Power of Conservative Media." The subhead gave away the slant: "When the radio host speaks for angry Republicans in Iowa -- and beyond -- the 2016 candidates have no choice but to listen."

Calmes, whose reporting shows a pattern of snobbish anti-conservative hostility, kept hammering on the college credentials theme:

Talk of alpha and beta males is common in the suburban Des Moines studio of the nationally syndicated conservative talk-show host Steve Deace. Almost daily, he assails the wimpy betas purporting to rule today’s Republican Party -- the feckless politicians who, under siege, are giving ground to alpha fighters like him....Without a pause, the bespectacled, baby-faced Deace (pronounced ‘‘dayce’’) leaned into his mike, his round torso swathed in a maize-and-blue sweatshirt of the University of Michigan, the beloved school he could not get into. ‘‘Do whatever you possibly can to get a real alpha male the highest standard-bearer position the party has, which is the nomination for president,’’ he said, hitting a favored theme of his. ‘‘Now, I think the best choice is Ted Cruz. You may not agree with me on that. But that would be my first action point.’’....When I later asked Deace where all this alpha-male talk leaves women in general, and in particular Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the populous Republican presidential field, he told me that alpha male ‘‘is a state of being. It’s not about what’s between your legs.’’)

You could almost hear the sigh as she went on to grieve about the "far right":

Such is the mood on the far right these days, where a two- or three-hour radio show can leave Democrats virtually unscathed in favor of attacking Republicans -- the damned party ‘‘establishment,’’ in particular. The relationship between the party and much of conservative media has been flipped since the ’90s, when House Republican leaders, including the future speaker, John Boehner, made Rush Limbaugh an honorary member of their caucus. Over time, conservatism has veered rightward, and Deace -- capitalizing on his place in Iowa, with its first-in-the-nation presidential nominating contest -- has emerged as one of the top voices of the political moment. Deace and others like him boast of being more conservative than Limbaugh or Fox News; like much of their audience, they consider themselves conservatives first and Republicans second (if only because being a Democrat is unthinkable). This strain of conservative media, and its take-no-prisoners ideology, have proliferated on websites, podcasts and video outlets, greatly complicating the Republican Party’s ability to govern and to pick presidential candidates with broad appeal.

Like his peers, Deace has nudged himself continuously to the right just to keep up with his audience. He once supported George W. Bush’s plans for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, before being persuaded otherwise by his listeners....

Calmes managed to bite her tongue during a laundry list of the more "provocative" comments from Deace, then recycled the "epistemic closure" idea from her Harvard report to indicate a news cocooning among conservatives, while also giving liberals a warm pat on the back for their superior diversity of news consumption.

Polls consistently show hard-liners’ views on immigration, climate change and some social issues are not shared by the majority of self-identified Republicans. But the people who tune in daily to Deace and his ultraconservative peers are also the ones most likely to vote and to follow closely the politicians they elect. A survey of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center showed that most conservative Americans get their news from conservative media, mainly Fox News, and distrust the rest, while liberals generally trust and consult a greater variety of political news sources.

Republican leaders and strategists have long played to these conservatives’ leanings at election time – with anti-government rhetoric and unachievable promises on Obamacare, immigration and abortion. Now far-right voters, having helped Republicans win control of Congress and many state capitals, are not buying the party establishment’s excuses for why these promises have not been kept. Hardly a day passes when Deace doesn’t complain that conservatives might as well have left Democrats in charge of the Senate.

Calmes recycled the anti-conservative talking points from her Harvard screed. That report used a negative quote as its title: "'They Don't Give a Damn About Governing.'" On Sunday she rehashed:

The party infighting has made it difficult for Republicans to govern. Representative Tom Latham of Iowa was no stranger to confrontational politics, having gone to Congress 20 years ago as part of the so-called Republican Revolution that ended the Democrats’ 40-year lock on the House majority. But Latham retired this year, frustrated that conservative media and its audience had made it practically impossible to pass essential legislation like appropriations and increases in the nation’s debt limit without a crisis. Latham says correspondence from his constituents more than quintupled from his first year in office to about 40,000 in his last, much of it angry ultimatums generated by media figures like Deace.