Talking Points Memo
Lefty pundit Amanda Marcotte grants that so-called political theater usually dovetails with the beliefs of the politicians and activists who perform it. Among the exceptions: some Republicans’ insincere, “comically overwrought meltdowns” over the Iran nuclear deal.
Those histrionics, Marcotte declared in a Wednesday Talking Points Memo column, are meant “to stir up irrational fears to be harped on for the rest of the election season…Pointless obstructionism for the sole purpose of sticking it to the Democrats and mindless demagoguery about the nefarious Middle Eastern threat to convince voters of your manhood…are joining together to create a massive, misshapen beast that represents everything that’s gone wrong with politics in the 21st century.”
A great many Fox News hosts and contributors publicly criticized Donald Trump’s latest Twitter swipes at Megyn Kelly. This raises a major pot-kettle issue, claims lefty writer Marcotte, in that these high-profile personalities who objected to Trump’s sexism work for a channel that disseminates one sexist message after another.
“The position at Fox News and elsewhere in the conservative media on women who talk back to men, or even just have the power to talk back to men,” wrote Marcotte in a Wednesday column for Talking Points Memo, is that “they are to be put in their place, with a vengeance. Any woman who has been targeted [by] the right wing flying monkeys of Twitter can attest to how well the audiences have absorbed this lesson. Screaming at bitches who don’t know their place is both a sacred cause and just a rowdy good time, in right wing circles…No one should understand this better than the people at Fox News. After all, this is the monster they created.”
Almost a quarter-century ago, Seal sang, “We're never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy.” These days, suggests Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall, it’s awfully hard to survive in the Republican presidential race if you’re only a little crazy, now that Donald Trump “has flooded the market with a new, purer brand of Crazy that has left the other candidates scrambling and basically unable to compete.”
“Trump is in many ways the logical end result of seven years -- really two-plus decades -- of Republican cultivation of anger and grievance as a method of conducting politics,” asserted Marshall in a Monday post, adding that Trump “has managed to boil modern Republicanism down to a hard precipitate form, shorn of the final vestiges of interest in actual governing.”
Historian Rick Perlstein, the author of three books (so far) on American movement conservatism from the mid-‘50s through the mid-‘70s, believes, in essence, that conservatives are tribalists whose central task is to promote hatred against other tribes. According to Perlstein, two recent news stories serve to illuminate that process, which, he suggests, involves an almost scientific-sounding conservation of the right wing’s bigoted energy.
“Conservatism is like bigotry whack-a-mole,” wrote Perlstein. “The quantity of hatred, best I can tell from 17 years of close study of 60 years of right-wing history, remains the same. Removing the flag of the Confederacy, [Donald Trump] raising the flag of immigrant hating: the former doesn’t spell some new Jerusalem of tolerance; the latter doesn’t mean that conservatism’s racism has finally been revealed for all to see. The push-me-pull-me of private sentiment and public profession will always remain in motion, and in tension.”
Though both Jonathan Chait and Amanda Marcotte approve of same-sex marriage, they differed on Monday in their assessment of the case against it. Chait, of New York magazine, claimed that anti-gay-marriage arguments have been pitiful and consequently were doomed from the get-go. He declared that “preventing gay people from marrying each other serves no coherent purpose. Allowing them to marry harms nobody.”
Meanwhile, Marcotte argued in a Talking Points Memo column that same-sex marriage helps to “redefine…marriage as an institution of love instead of oppression,” and that the anti-gay-marriage forces are clinging to the idea that marriage is “about dutiful procreation and female submission.”
Group loyalty is a big part of politics on both sides of the fence, but as far as lefty pundit Marcotte is concerned, it’s become so inflated on the right that it often crowds out crucial things like “basic common sense.”
In a Friday Talking Points Memo column, Marcotte asserted that “conservatives are going way too far with this knee-jerk tendency to believe ‘their’ people can do no wrong and to assume ‘liberals’ are some subversive force out to destroy everything. It’s mildly amusing when Republican voters are mindlessly preferring religious nutcases” -- the Duggars -- “to a centrist liberal who probably gave them health care."
The Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature may soon weaken protections for tenured professors in the state’s university system. Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Marshall believes that Gov. Scott Walker’s enthusiastic support for tenure reform is “driven in part by right-wing ideology and in part by the palpable animus Walker himself holds to people who managed to get an education.”
Marshall asserted that Walker sees tenure reform as an attack on the philosophical strain of liberalism that undergirds “empirical thinking and new ideas,” especially in the scientific realm, and opined that as regards the system’s flagship university in Madison, the effect of the reforms would be “pretty much like just lighting [the campus] on fire.”
Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall sees a pattern of self-deception among Clinton-loathing conservatives. Marshall acknowledges that Bill and Hillary Clinton routinely “play close to the line” and “refus[e] to play by rules tighter than those applied to anyone else,” but argues that right-wingers fool themselves when they insist that behind those tendencies lies criminality.
“It's never enough for the Clintons' perennial critics to be satisfied with potential conflicts of interest or arguably unseemly behavior,” wrote Marshall in a Tuesday post. “It always has to be more. There have to be high crimes, dead people, corrupt schemes. And if they don't materialize, they need to be made up. Both because there is an organized partisan apparatus aimed at perpetuating them and because there is a right-wing audience that requires a constant diet of hyperventilating outrage from which to find nourishment.”
Marshall commented that “freak show conspiracy theories…inevitably bubble up around [the Clintons], a symbiotic embrace of grievance, aggression and derp. It's painful to admit, but the two sides feed on each other.”
Hillary Clinton is not the incumbent president, but otherwise is in a similar position to Barack Obama’s in the spring of 2011: she’s already next year’s presumptive Democratic nominee but has, at best, an educated guess as to who her Republican opponent will be. In the meantime, recommended lefty pundit Marcotte in a Monday piece for Talking Points Memo, Hillary should decide to run as a “bitch who [gets] things done” rather than as “your mom,” an approach which fizzled for her in 2008.
“If Clinton is smart,” contended Marcotte, “she’ll put on those sunglasses and that black pantsuit and be the ladyboss we all wish we had: tough, smart, but compassionate. Soccer mom Hillary is too thirsty and it turns voters off. But ass-kicking Hillary makes people swoon. Hopefully, the campaign will pay heed to this difference.”
Conor P. Williams really enjoys watching the amazing race -- not the CBS program, but the race for the Republican presidential nomination, which Williams called “my favorite TV show” in a Monday column on Talking Points Memo.
For Williams, much of the “entertainment value” of the GOP contest lies in its right-wing extremism: “This is a show where the American conservative id fully unravels in public…The Democrats' primaries are relatively boring. Why? Because they don't have an empowered fringe. Their candidates operate pretty securely within the Overton Window of political possibility. The GOP's empowered, hard-right wing makes their primaries way more interesting.”
When it comes to right-wingers and the Affordable Care Act, biology and race are destiny. That’s the word from lefty pundit Marcotte, who argued in a Thursday column for Talking Points Memo that the “fight against Obamacare has been about needling the gender- and race-based resentments of the conservative base.”
Jonathan Chait, Paul Waldman, and Amanda Marcotte each discuss how the Wisconsin governor and probable presidential candidate has responded to recent questions about issues including evolution, Obama’s religious beliefs, and Obama’s patriotism, as well as how his answers might play with the “paranoid” Republican base that thinks, in Waldman’s words, that “Obama is The Other, an alien presence occupying an office he doesn't deserve.”