Friday, June 12, 2009

Republican Extinction

While agreeing with most progressives about the mainstream media's sympathy toward conservative views, there are times when conservatives really do get sandbagged. The Katie Couric interview with Sarah Palin was a good example. Producers must have known in advance that the somber lighting of the set and the slow, uber serious tone of Couric's questions would all work against Palin's perky strengths and accentuate her lack of policy knowledge. Taping the show must have felt like moving in for the kill.

There's another little dig on Time's Mike Murphy article on the problems of the Republican Party. Time editors accentuate Murphy's theme of the "GOP Ice Age" by changing the Republican symbol of the elephant into a woolly mammoth, an ice age behemoth . . . .

Which just happens to be extinct.

Murphy, a top Republican consultant, puts a familiar argument into an attractive package. He believes that the power of demographics means that the Republicans need to change. He focuses on the Hispanic and youth vote. The Hispanic vote has increased from 2% of the electorate in 1980 to 9% in 2008, went to Obama by 36%, and delivered Indiana to the Democrats. Given that the most popular name for male babies in Texas is "Jose," the Republicans will have to change their stance on immigration if they want to become even remotely competitive for the Hispanic vote.

Likewise, Murphy argues that the Republicans need to relax their opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights if they want to start being competitive for the 18-29 vote.

Murphy knows that all of this is bitter medicine. Republican Senators and House members come from safe districts that really want the GOP to stick with Reagan. He also ould have mentioned that GOP voters are becoming even more rigid in their conservatism and thus are unlikely to change their approach.

Ultimately, the Republicans probably are on the road to extinction and they would need more bitter medicine still if they want to change course.

Top of the GOP list should be shutting down Fox News.

The function of Fox News is to amplify conservative views on abortion rights, gay rights, race, immigration, health care, and Obama. Conservative views on all of these topics range from unpopular to offensive with the rest of the country. With the television megaphone in the hands of right-wing provocateurs like Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly, Fox provides decisive affirmation for both sides of all these debates in a way that disadvantages conservatism.

For conservatives 33% of the electorate, Fox affirms all of their views as being the right views and portrays them positively as an embattled minority. Largely because of Fox (and talk radio), conservative constituencies are always inflamed about immigration, abortion, gay rights, and religion. As a result, the Republican Party has none of the wiggle room on social issues that consultants like Mike Murphy would like to see.

Even worse, Fox also manifests conservative hostility toward African-Americans, hispanics, gay people, and secular culture. That hostility gets further amplified through the emerging left-wing media of the Daily Show, Colbert Report, Huffington Post, and Media Matters. To the Republican Party, Ann Coulter's homophobic comments about John Edwards are an embarrassment best forgotten. However, the rise of the left-wing media means that the provocations of Coulter are never forgotten. Material from Coulter, O'Reilly, Beck, and the other Fox worthies become left-wing news, fodder for comic put-downs of conservatives, and affirmations of progressive views concerning the right. The ultimate result is to lock in the majority view of conservatives as old white people who are bigots, homophobes, and religious zealots who are generally out of touch with modern America.

For Republicans, "The Fox Effect" is to shrink the GOP down to a very committed 33% minority that is poorly thought of by the large majority of their fellow Americans.

And it's not just Hispanics and young people who see conservatism this way either. So are white moderates and independents. Murphy doesn't mention this because he probably sees the Republicans as no longer having a chance with these constituencies, but the "liberalization" of the New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. suburbs has destroyed the Republican Party in the Northeast and given the Democrats an advantage in Virginia.

If the GOP wants to once again become competitive with the white moderates, independents, and weak Democrats who dominate the suburban vote, the best thing they can do is close down Fox.

Of course, that's not going to happen. One way or another, the Republicans probably will become extinct.

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