Conor Friedersdorf @ The Atlantic is best described as a leftie provocateur. His writing and arguments, while left-leaning, are generally cloaked sufficiently in reason to warrant a read. And he usually gets read because his real stock in trade is to take on right-leaning media icons, thus “stealing” their audience, at least for the life of his most current piece. He is the consummate counter-puncher.
That is again the pattern in his latest:
This piece, cloaked in reason (and a discussion of a recent Ross Douthat piece) if not necessarily born of it, is really two things. First it is a shot at Rush Limbaugh. Not much of a surprise really – now he has the attention of all those Limbaugh listeners out there and his click rate skyrockets. Secondly it is an attempt to separate the “Tea Party” from the “Republican Establishment.” Which is, of course, an effort to permanently weaken the Republican party, turning the natural factions inside any party into mortal enemies.
But inside this piece is a question worth examining. Consider:
Yes, Tea Party supporters regard the Republican establishment as having been thoroughly discredited during the Bush years. Yet they’ve continued to vest extraordinary trust in the cable news and talk radio personalities who spent the aughts slavishly supporting the GOP establishment. They get their information from erstwhile purveyors of pro-Bush propaganda, taking their cues come from the same people who enabled George W.
If the White House staffers, Washington, D.C., think tanks, and establishment media figures who enabled Bush-era excesses have all lost credibility, why not the movement conservative talkers who carried water for the same flawed governance?
Let me rephrase this observation a bit. “Gosh darn it, the ‘Tea Partiers’ just are not turning as whacky or moving away from the mainstream of American as much as I would like.” Yet I must agree with Friedersdorf that there is a certain level of irrationality to the divides inside the Republican party. The internal party conflicts seem out of proportion with the actual differences between the factions.
Some of that sense is, of course, the MSM portraying it that way in an effort permanently cripple Republicans. But I think there is an elephant in the room that no one is discussing.
The Tea Party was born out of one really bad presidential candidate (John McCain) losing the election and in protest to the incredibly left leaning policies of the victor of that election. McCain is no friend of the Religious Right. What we are now seeing, which is a bit ugly but not nearly so ugly as the MSM would have us think, is born of a candidate that many of the Religious Right viewed as antithetical to their faith. This latter fact is a crying shame because Mitt Romney, while a Mormon, came much, much closer to representing the Christian Right than John McCain could ever dream of. But because he was a Mormon, many viewed him as McCain writ large.
Religious talk was suppressed in the last election. It was destructive to Romney in the 2008 primary and therefore sidelined in 2012. The opposition left it lying because suppressed it provided a hidden lever that could be used in the general. Even after the Civil Rights movements and its legislative results, African-Americans in the South had a difficult time obtaining office because while race was never discussed, it was whispered. Romney’s Mormon faith was whispered throughout 2012. Many a conservative vote was idle when it got to the presidential portion of the ballot.
The reason the divide inside the Republican party seems irrational is because no one is willing to discuss its roots. The current crisis is too immediate and too consequential for such a discussion now – but once past, the discussion must begin. You cannot solve problems that you are not willing to stare in the face.
Tradition holds that a failed candidate like Romney is supposed to fade into the woodwork, but maybe he is the only one that can start this discussion? Maybe the Limbaughs of the world that Friedersdorf paints as the irrational bridge between the two factions can get the job done? I am sure there are other and better ideas on how to get this working again, what I know is we have to acknowledge the elephant.