In 2000 I was living in Virginia and not terribly interested in the upcoming election. The reason was twofold. I was not a big fan of Bush and all of the down ticket candidates were uninteresting, but harmless. I think my state rep had been in office for decades and was running unopposed, because no one had a reason to throw him out. He was harmless and sensible, a rare thing in politics.
Even so, I went off the morning of the election to my polling place and I was surprised to see a line. It was one of those times when you suddenly realize you’re wrong about things. Clearly, people were not like me and indifferent to the election. They were engaged, because they thought it was important. Bush won Virginia, but not as handily as one would have expected.
What came next was eight years of Progressive crazies screaming at us that Bush was a mix of Hitler and Satan. On the other side were conservative media defending everything Bush said and did, even the stuff that was contrary to conservative dogma, which was most of it. It was in the Bush years that “conservative” lost all meaning and became a brand label to sell the GOP, as well as ties, coffee mugs and so forth.
Part of the reason Donald Trump has risen to the top of the GOP field is he has largely run against conservative media. It has been an article of faith among media conservatives that the public hated the liberal media. Michelle Malkin has said “lame-stream media” so many times it could be her nickname. Much of what Fox News and talk radio do everyday is rail about the liberal media, seeing that as red meat to their fans.
It turns out that the public actually has grown to hate all political media equally. It’s why the screaming about Trump has backfired. The conservative public has been doing a slow burn for eight years over the Bush debacle. They feel they were sold a pig in a poke. The people selling it were the folks in conservative media, who tried peddling Mitt Romney four years ago. They were ready to sell Jeb Bush this time.
It appears that conservative media may be slowly figuring it out as we see in this article by the neo-con pundit John Podhoretz. He can’t bring himself the admit the invade the world/invite the world ideology of his people is the real problem, but he does inch toward blaming Bush for the current ructions. Now that Hari Seldon’s top lieutenant has said it is OK, I suspect others will begin to plow this ground over the summer.
The gist of the Podhoretz article is that the bank collapse and mortgage meltdown still haunt the GOP because no one was ever brought to account for it. Instead, Republicans blamed Clinton and Democrats blamed greedy bankers, who were never charged. Instead, they were bailed out with borrowed Chinese money. The argument is that this “revolt” of the Dirt People is a delayed response to this.
Well, that’s some of it, but the 2008 nonsense was part of a larger trend we have seen for decades. In the 80’s, many people went to jail over the S&L Crisis. In 2000 hardly anyone went to jail for the dot-com scam and the accounting scandals. People have been watching the rich and powerful avoid the law for a long time now so the mortgage collapse was just part of the larger mosaic.
The bigger issue is that conservatives were told for generations that the only way to roll back the welfare state and restore order was to get control of Congress. That happened for the first time in 50 years when the GOP won the House in 94. They did some good things and slowed spending considerably, but Clinton was still in the White House so rollback was off the table.
That was the argument for Bush from conservative media in 2000. Bush with a GOP House and Senate could pass real reform and big parts of the conservative agenda. Instead, we got wars of choice that staggered on endlessly and a massive expansion of government not seen since LBJ. To top it off, we got the start of the security state in the form of the Department of Homeland Security.
This crap was sold and defended by conservative media for eight years. The warmongering has been defended throughout the Obama years. All the big-shots in conservative media were preparing to sell the voters on Jeb Bush until the Dirt Monster showed up and busted up the party. It’s why the screaming and hooting from conservative media has fallen on deaf ears. No one believes them anymore.
To add insult to injury, the surge of Trump has been cast as racist and prol by the pajama-clad social justice warriors of conservative media. If you are a rank and file conservative, you can’t help but wonder if conservative media is just a big scam run by the DNC. Browse through National Review and you can only assume it is a well coordinated and financed attack on the voters.
People who work with numbers have an old gag, “quantity has a quality of its own.” That’s what’s happening to conservative media. They can be clever and smart and have access to the best media tools. That’s not much use when 99% of the people no longer believe them. Unless and until conservative media comes to terms with the fact they are on the wrong side of their customers, their star will continue to fade.