The Attacks on Conservative Talk Radio

November 6th, 2016 3:37 PM

Here we go again.

Over at Business Insider, one-time Glenn Beck guy Oliver Darcy (he formerly of Beck’s The Blaze) and BI’s Pamela Engel have headlined "The GOP must do something about the conservative media industrial complex if it wants to survive" in which they write that (brace yourselves) President Obama has correctly diagnosed the problem with the GOP.

No, it isn’t the real problem that has plagued the GOP from (roughly) the days of Thomas E. Dewey on to Dewey’s successors as champions of what Ronald Reagan once correctly disdained as the “fraternal order” Republicanism of a (pick one - any one) Ford, Bush, Dole, Bush, McCain or Romney. No, the real problem with the GOP is yes, you guessed it, “far-right media outlets (that) have been pumping out all kinds of toxic, crazy stuff.”

Write Darcy and Engel:

“The president had a point. Trump's rise was no accident; rather, it was a natural outgrowth of a growing and influential faction of conservative media that for years fed the Republican base a steady diet of fringe theories masqueraded as news.”

And other than themselves, who agrees with Mr. Obama, he the champion of a far-left that pumps out every wackadoodle fringe theory imaginable? (See: Trust the Iranian mullahs! If the President apologizes for America the world will like us! Radical Islam has nothing to do with Islam! If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor!)

Darcy and Engel tell us just who believes the President got it right, bold print for emphasis supplied by me:

The president's remarks hit home for numerous Republican strategists and members of the traditional conservative press. Many of them felt that Obama, public enemy No. 1 over the past eight years, had been the one to accurately home in on the problem.

When I was watching the president, I was struck by how he seemed to understand the problems with conservative media more than any Republican does,’ said John Ziegler, a nationally syndicated conservative radio host and columnist for Mediaite.”

This jewel of a piece goes on to say:

“Trump did not create the conditions ripe for his candidacy. The conservative media industrial complex and apprehensive Republican leaders were responsible for that.

Years before the real-estate tycoon entered onto the political stage, the conservative press — made up of a handful of websites, talk radio, and Fox News opinion programming — started to move the center of gravity in the Republican base further and further right.

By the beginning of the 2016 election cycle, a Republican hoping to secure office would all but need to take the hardline conservative position on every issue to avoid being characterized as a squishy moderate. If a Republican were to hold conservative positions on 90% of the issues, for instance, the conservative press would roast the candidate for the 10% on which there was disagreement.

Perhaps more important, however, the conservative media industrial complex successfully managed over the years to lock the Republican Party away from access to its own base. Those who consumed conservative media were taught not to trust politicians or, even worse, the mainstream media.

As a result, party leaders were beholden to a handful of individuals who controlled the conservative media and, thus, held the keys to their voters. Elected officials and candidates seeking office dared not criticize the conservative media’s most powerful members, for fear of the wrath that would ensue if they did.”

....The Republican base still remains largely unreachable, locked away in a space in which only figures like talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, Fox News host Sean Hannity, and internet titan Matt Drudge hold the keys.”

Meanwhile, over there at Purple State (oops, sorry, I mean Red State) is this gem from Kimberly Ross who headlines: “I Was Once A Sean Hannity Republican.”

Ross writes:

“More than ten years after my post-college GOP media infatuation, and in the shadow of Trump’s rise to political power, it is abundantly clear that too many Republican media types sell a cheap brand to their listeners, label it patriotism, and strongly chide the rest of us for not taking part. 

These snake oil salesmen/women and the environment they’ve created are a major part of the problem.

.…Donald Trump’s cheerleading squad includes angry Sean Hannity, screeching Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, the aforementioned Limbaugh, shrill Mark Levin (depending on what day it is), and others. I used to love many of these people (definitely not Coulter) for what I thought they were contributing to the cause from the Right side of the aisle. That admiration has long since passed.

Most frightening of all to ask: has this election year turned those we previously admired into something else entirely, or has it just exposed their true selves to the light? I lean toward the realization that they haven’t changed into something new, but that we’re suddenly realizing who they’ve always been.”

In other words? Here we go again. 

Let me ask the obvious question. Have these people ever heard of Thomas E. Dewey? How about Ronald Reagan?

It was, of course, Governor Dewey, he the moderate GOP governor of New York and two-time loser of presidential elections (the second time, 1948, famously losing in an upset to Harry Truman) who way back there in 1950 said that if GOP conservatives ever got their way “the Republicans would lose every election and the Democrats would win every election.”  And it was Reagan, decades later (in December 1976 after yet another moderate Republican - Gerald Ford - had managed to lose yet another election he was supposed to win - who unerringly said the GOP’s problem was “fraternal order” Republicans who saw the party as a fraternity and not a political party based on conservative principles. (Reagan also announced he intended to re-build the GOP by inviting in Democrats and Independents of like-mind, which he proceeded to do over the objections of moderates. Hmmm how did that work out, anyway?) 

The point, of course, is that while none of these people mentioned above (and there are plenty others in the “its all the fault of (fill-in-the-blank) Rush/Sean/Mark/Laura/Drudge/Breitbart etc etc etc" school of thought) seem to understand, their argument has been around long before any of them and most certainly long before conservative talk radio or Fox or Steve Bannon, Matt Drudge and Ann Coulter. Indeed, that Dewey speech was given at Princeton University in 1950, the year before Rush Limbaugh was even born.

In other words? There’s nothing new here. This being written before the election I have no idea how it will turn out, but whether Trump has a win, lose or draw the criticism of the conservative media, talk radio in particular, is merely the latest variation of a very, very old theme. To wit: if only Republicans could be more like liberal Democrats they would win. The argument is not only wrong it is both ancient and pernicious. It is the siren song of the “fraternal order” Republicans Reagan long ago fingered as the core of the GOP's problem.  At a time when there are more social and media outlets for conservatism than at any time in American political history the idea of  targeting talk radio is as idiotic as it is typical of the fraternal order.