Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Rump Parliament of Media

You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately ... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!  - Oliver Cromwell to the Rump Parliament

In the aftermath of this 2012 election, one of the most obvious results of last night was how the conservative columnists and media darlings sitting at the head of the American political commentary were so utterly and completely wrong about how the election was going to play out.

To quote Conor:

Barack Obama just trounced a Republican opponent for the second time. But unlike four years ago, when most conservatives saw it coming, Tuesday's result was, for them, an unpleasant surprise. So many on the right had predicted a Mitt Romney victory, or even a blowout -- Dick Morris, George Will, and Michael Barone all predicted the GOP would break 300 electoral votes. Joe Scarborough scoffed at the notion that the election was anything other than a toss-up. Peggy Noonan insisted that those predicting an Obama victory were ignoring the world around them. Even Karl Rove, supposed political genius, missed the bulls-eye. These voices drove the coverage on Fox News, talk radio, the Drudge Report, and conservative blogs.

Those audiences were misinformed...

Each of those talking heads/columnists have been publicly exposed for putting personal viewpoints ahead of the facts and sticking to fantasy of their narrative - they are more invested in a close horse-race in order to keep ratings high - rather than doing the hard work of actual journalism - which would have involved research, genuine analysis, and more than likely direct interviewing of key people which in this case would have been a decent sampling of Honest-to-God voters.

A lot of this has to do with the fact that these media types - isolated in their offices, traveling in hermetically-sealed limos, chatting with each other in closed studios - are truly in a bubble of their own making.  They can't perceive the world outside that bubble and think that Real America - some idealized majority among us 300 million -  is just like them: pining for the era when America saved everyone during the Cold War, our Dollar was golden and Reagan their God.  Just look at Peggy Noonan's insistence that she could see the Real America, simply because she saw so many yard signs for Romney as she rode down the streets of Florida... without realizing that a low-staffed Romney ground game had little else to do BUT put yard signs everywhere they could.  Or that Obama yard signs kept getting stolen by spiteful Romney supporters. 

This shouldn't be too surprising when the Republican leadership during the Bush the Lesser years embraced the idea that their belief, and acting on that belief, would force the Real World to bend to their will.  Again to Conor:

In conservative fantasy-land, Richard Nixon was a champion of ideological conservatism, tax cuts are the only way to raise revenue, adding neoconservatives to a foreign-policy team reassures American voters, Benghazi was a winning campaign issue, Clint Eastwood's convention speech was a brilliant triumph, and Obama's America is a place where black kids can beat up white kids with impunity. Most conservative pundits know better than this nonsense -- not that they speak up against it. They see criticizing their own side as a sign of disloyalty. I see a coalition that has lost all perspective, partly because there's no cost to broadcasting or publishing inane bullshit. In fact, it's often very profitable. A lot of cynical people have gotten rich broadcasting and publishing red meat for movement conservative consumption.

Each of the people named by Friedersdorf - including Rush Limbaugh, who wasn't named but is part of the same problem - are now conservative columnists and radio hosts who came of age in the shadow of Reagan.  None of them seem to grasp that it's not 1985 anymore.  It's been 30 years since the heyday of Saint Ronnie's regime and yet the likes of George Will and Noonan and seem to think that most of America's problems can be solved the same way (unlikely: the problems we have now stem from what happened in 1985...) and with the same leadership (a solid conservative manly, religious, and devoted to deregulated economics).  These columnists and permanent guests on the talk show circuits have a problem accepting the slight possibility that a non-Republican could lead this nation: these are the same people who had problems accepting Bill Clinton, focusing more on his flaws than his skills, and it's only 10 years after he left that they're finally grokking why a majority of Americans still think well of Clinton and his presidency.

Their failure this weekend to stick to the facts, the whole-hearted way they gleefully predicted a Romney landslide as though he would be yet another Return to Reagan-ism, brings to the fore just how out-of-touch these self-appointed judges of Real America really are. This is the breaking point of "Epistemic Closure", the groupthink of people who haven't the need to think for more than 30 years...

I'm with Ta-Nehisi here: time to fire the pundits.  We don't need a term limit for elected officials, we can just vote them out if needed.  No, it's time to retire some of these self-indulgent out-of-touch media elites who have sat too long in the television studios (here now to James Fallows):

Remember, these people's claim to fame -- especially in the case of (in their respective primes) Barone, Morris, and Rove -- is that they know something special about politics. If they are putting their names behind these predictions, presumably they would like us to take them seriously. We'll see what happens in the next day or two: If they are right, all appropriate credit. But if they are not, this should be remembered, rather than just blown off. And similarly, if the "quants" who are unanimously predictable a sizable Obama win prove to be wrong, they should be made to explain.

They should be fired.  They should resign if they have any true perspective on the world around them.  But ah, the temptations of those six-figure speaking fees and seven-figure book deals...


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