Thursday, June 04, 2015

Why the Media Needs to Admit that Today's GOP is Extremist

One of the safe guards for democracy is a press/media that reports all of the facts and makes an effort to expose crackpots and extremists.  That applies as much to politicians as it does to the agenda of the Christofascists as it does to the rising white supremacy favored by the Republican Party base. Yet, today, the media has for the most part grown lazy and prefers to merely parrot the batshitery of Republicans or gives deference to religious extremists and hate group leaders like Tony Perkins of Family Research Council.  Yes, there are crackpots on the left, but nothing like what has become the norm among today's "conservatives" and Republicans.   A piece in Salon looks at the dangers posed by the media's failure to expose the far rights extremism.  Here are highlights:

It seems to be an article of faith among many in the chattering class that while it’s no longer debatable that the right has drifted a bit more rightward in recent years, the left — already far out on the fringe — has moved equally leftward, thus making the “center” the place where all the Very Serious People of the political establishment reside. This way, when the Republican party shows itself to be completely irresponsible, they needn’t feel uncomfortable. They can, in their minds always find some corollary of crazy on the left.

It is true that the recognition of the right being a little bit out to lunch — maybe even a touch out of step with the mainstream of the country — is very recent. In fact, up until just a couple of years ago, the political establishment maintained the fiction that “America is a conservative nation” which furthermore was extremely hostile to liberalism. This belief was pretty much based upon one election held three decades ago in which it was excitedly observed that certain white Democrats decided to vote for Ronald Reagan because they just couldn’t stand those hippies anymore.

They had long been attached to the idea that the Real America was rural and suburban, white and conservative. (I wrote about the genesis of that belief among members of the modern political media here at Salon a while back.) Everyone else, liberals, people of color, city dwellers were members of a fringe.

This goes back all the way to the beginning of the country (maybe human civilization itself) in which the tension between the country and the city always finds a way to play itself out in how the people are organized. But let’s just say that in this case, the idea that the United States of the last 35 years was monolithically conservative was always an overstatement. The right was just very good at being the loudest and most aggressive political players in the game. And they were very well financed.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the revolution. They lost control of the troops, who have become more and more extreme and are now little better than an ungovernable mob. . . . 
Some of us thought this was obvious more than 20 years ago when powerful congressmen started shooting watermelons in their backyards as part of their “investigations” and prosecutors were putting pornography on the internet allegedly in the name of public decency.

But better late than never. A few years ago, well-known mainstream political scientists Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann wrote a story called “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem” in the Washington Post, which made the obvious observation that the GOP had gone over the cliff and bore responsibility for the gridlock and dysfunction that defines Washington.

Basically they just said the GOP emperor was stark raving nude: It had become “ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

[P]erhaps their real crime was in writing that the political media (which has very sensitive feelings) had persisted in presenting the two sides as equally culpable in this disintegration of our political system, and was, therefore, partially responsible for it.

Ingraham goes on to point out that the data shows that nearly 90 percent of House Republicans are not politically moderate while nearly 90 percent of House Democrats are politically moderate. It doesn’t get any more stark than that. Not only is the United States not a “conservative” country, the party that identifies as conservative has gone so far to the right that it no longer has any claim on moderates or centrists.

You would think that data like this would make the press take a very close look at the upcoming elections with a completely different viewpoint than they’ve had in the past. It’s a huge story!

But I would not count on it. To use their own tired formulation, they are so far blindly following a “narrative” that’s being fed to them morsel by morsel by this same extreme Republican Party in which the “real story” of the campaign is about arcane, unintelligible scandals that are based upon a lot of innuendo about “appearances” and almost nothing of substance.

They may not win the presidential election. But it doesn’t look as if the press is going to tell the American people what’s really happening in their politics either. The consequences of that aren’t likely to be positive if what you care about is a functioning democracy.

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