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The Radicalization Of The Republican Party: Seven Years Late, Media Elites Finally Acknowledge GOP’s Radical Ways

Now they tell us the Republican Party is to blame? That the Obama years haven’t been gummed up by Both Sides Are To Blame obstruction?

The truth is, anyone with clear vision recognized a long time ago that the GOP has transformed itself since 2009 into an increasingly radical political party, one built on complete and total obstruction. It’s a party designed to make governing difficult, if not impossible, and one that plotted seven years ago to shred decades of Beltway protocol and oppose every inch of Obama’s two terms. (“If he was for it, we had to be against it,” former Republican Ohio Sen. George Voinovich once explained.)

And for some of us, it didn’t take Donald Trump’s careening campaign to confirm the destructive state of the GOP. But if it’s the Trump circus that finally opens some pundits’ eyes, so be it.

Recently, Dan Balz, the senior political writer for the Washington Post, seemed to do just that while surveying the unfolding GOP wreckage as the party splinters over Trump’s rise. Balz specifically noted that four years ago political scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein examined the breakdown in American politics and zeroed in their blame squarely on Republicans.

“They were ahead of others in describing the underlying causes of polarization as asymmetrical, with the Republican Party — in particular its most hard-line faction — as deserving of far more of the blame for the breakdown in governing,” Balz acknowledged.

“We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional,” Mann and Ornstein wrote in The Washington Post in 2012. “In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.”

They continued:

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

Tough stuff.

And what was the Beltway media’s response when Ornstein and Mann squarely blamed Republicans during an election year for purposefully making governing impossible? Media elites suddenly lost Mann and Ornstein’s number, as the duo’s television appearances and calls for quotes quickly dried up. So did much of the media’s interest in Mann and Ornstein’s prescient book.

“This was far too much for the mainstream press,” noted New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen. “They couldn’t assimilate what Mann and Ornstein said AND maintain routines and assumptions that posited a rough symmetry between the two parties. (‘Both sides do it.’) It was too much dissonance. Too much wreckage. So they pushed it away.”

For anyone who still harbors the naïve notion that the political debates staged by the Beltway press represent freewheeling discussions where anything goes, the Mann/Ornstein episode helped shed some light on the fact that certain topics and analysis remain off limits for public debate for years — even topics that are accurate, fair and essential to understanding our government’s current dysfunction.

Mann and Ornstein stepped forward to accurately describe what was happening to the Republican Party and detailed the calamitous effect it had on our democracy, and the mainstream media turned away.

So committed was the pundit class to maintaining its safe narrative about “bipartisan gridlock” and Obama’s puzzling inability to find “middle ground” with Republicans (i.e. why doesn’t he just schmooze more?), the press was willing to ignore Mann and Ornstein’s solid, scholarly research in order to wish the problem away.

Quite predictably, that problem has only worsened since 2012, which is what Mann and Ornstein address in their latest offering, “It’s Even Worse Than It Was.”  

“It is the radicalization of the Republican party,” they recently wrote, “that has been the most significant and consequential change in American politics in recent decades.”

“The radicalization of the Republican party” — talk about the topic the Beltway press simply doesn’t want to dwell on, let alone acknowledge. Instead, the press has clung to its preferred narrative about how the GOP is filled with honest brokers who are waiting to work in good faith with the White House. Eager to maintain a political symmetry in which both sides are responsible for sparking conflict (i.e. center-right Republicans vs. center-left Democrats), the press effectively gave Republicans a pass and pretended their radical, obstructionist ways represented normal partisan pursuits. (They didn’t.)

Today’s Republican Party is acting in a way that defies all historic norms. We saw it with the GOP’s gun law obstruction, the Violence Against Women Act obstruction, the sequester obstruction, Supreme Court obstruction, minimum wage obstruction, 9/11 first responder obstruction, government shutdown obstruction, immigration reform obstruction, Chuck Hagel’s confirmation obstruction, Susan Rice secretary of state obstruction, paid leave obstruction, Hurricane Sandy emergency relief obstruction, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act obstruction, and the consistent obstruction of judicial nominees.

The 2014 obstruction of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act was especially galling, as a single Republican senator blocked a vote on the crucial veterans bill.

At the time of the bill’s blockade, Media Matters noted that there was virtually no coverage of the radical obstructionism on CNN, Fox News, ABC, CBS, NBC or PBS, as well as news blackouts in the nation’s six largest newspapers: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, The Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, The Denver Post, and Chicago Tribune

In other words, the GOP’s radical brand of obstructionism not only doesn’t get highlighted as something notable, radical, and dangerous; it’s often met with a collective shrug as the press pretends these kind of nonstop impediments are commonplace.

As Obama works his way through his final year in office, at least pundits like Balz are highlighting that Mann and Ornstein (and yes, Media Matters) were right about the GOP and the asymmetrical blame the party deserves for trying to wreck our functioning government.

It’s never too late for truth telling.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, March 29, 2016

March 30, 2016 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Governing, Mainstream Media | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Yuuuge Media Failure”: The Press Was Wrong, And Remains Wrong, About Donald Trump

The system failed. That’s what they say about the establishment Republican party, such as it is. For me, there is a logical progression from Newt Gingrich’s harsh revolution to the present moment. The tea party brought Donald Trump to the 2016 dance with its angry outsider rhetoric. Six years ago, the tea party whipped up a frenzy that Trump has furthered with every passing day as the Republican primary front-runner.

Count me out of mourning for the Republican party. This is the party that produced Richard Nixon, a vicious spirit, schemer and liar. Please don’t tell me about China, or I’ll bring up Vietnam and Cambodia. This is the party that gave us George W. Bush by one Supreme Court vote over the popular vote. The Iraq War was the longest, and for what? It has tied the Middle East up into knots and power vacuums. This is the war nobody won. Bush left messes for his successor, Barack Obama, to clean up for eight years, not to mention junking good will from our allies and military morale.

This is the party that has given us hundreds of members of Congress that, to a man, oppose reproductive rights for girls and women. There’s only one Republican woman defined as a pro-choice moderate: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. One. This is the party that gave us Clarence Thomas. Need I say more?

But there are tears that another system failed, a system just as central to democracy. Despite great debate coverage, the press has failed and fallen down on the job of covering Trump, and I’ll tell you how. First they – we – snidely covered him as head of the “clown car,” assuring readers and viewers that he could never win the nomination despite his strong poll numbers from the start. That was a strong chorus from friends and foes alike. Don’t worry, nobody could take him seriously as a standard-bearer.

I belong to this tribe, some of my best friends are journos, but I did not share this complacency. I had actually watched Trump’s reality show, “The Apprentice,” with a reluctant respect for his deal-making and character judgment. Like him or not, he is a formidable player. And, clearly, the climate was just right for him. Now the confessions and apologies are coming up for air, from white male pundits who never saw Trump’s swath coming. Like a lifeguard who misses a tidal wave coming to shore. I won’t name names, but I will say the reason for this short-sightedness is that the media viewed Trump through the spectacles of our own class privilege.

For my part, I wrote that Trump might be a “textbook demagogue” fully ahead of the wave. And I give him credit for vociferously criticizing the Iraq War, which may be part of his populist appeal. He is the only candidate to decry that foreign policy folly, except for his fellow populist, Sen. Bernie Sanders. To me, the scary thing is that he wasn’t even the worst in the Republican line-up. I’d take him over Jeb Bush any day, or the other Floridian, Sen. Marco Rubio, the pretty darling of the pundits.

Winds of white working-class anger were blowing out there, at Trump’s rallies, but not taken seriously enough as a force. Now that we people in the press have sobered up, I fear that pendulum is swinging the other way, and the press is taking Trump too seriously. Conservative pundit Kathleen Parker wrote this in Sunday’s Post: “Trump is still terrible for the country, and therefore the world.” In Monday’s Post, Fred Hiatt tore into Trump as a narcissist, a bigot and yes, a demagogue. So now the clown is being demonized.

Here in the world’s oldest democracy, let’s let the party decide without undue hysterics from the establishment media. Yes, the press is compensating for reading the winds so wrong when the stakes are so high. But it happens all the time.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, March 14, 2016

March 15, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Mainstream Media, Press | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Winning Theme”: Clinton’s America Never Stopped Being Great

Sometimes, you take your laughs where you find them. For me, the funniest moment in an otherwise dreary and intermittently scary election year came when Candidate Trump visited the old state fairgrounds in Little Rock. A character seemingly straight out of a Charles Portis novel provided the most incisive commentary.

The author of “True Grit” is the state’s best novelist, a master of deadpan comedy in a tone-perfect Arkansas twang.

According to the newspaper, a Trump supporter carrying a “Make America Great Again” sign encountered a young man on his way into the arena to bask in the Great Braggart’s eerie orange glow.

“America’s already great, you dumb-butt!” the kid said.

He could have been Portis’s Norwood Pratt, the would-be country singer traveling the country with Joann the Wonder Hen, the College Educated Chicken. An ex-Marine, Norwood wasn’t one to mince words.

So there was Hillary Clinton on the night of her thunderous win over Sen. Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina primary.

“We don’t need to make America great again,” she said. “America never stopped being great. But we do need to make America whole again. Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers. We need to show by everything we are in this together.”

Ain’t that the truth? Maybe not in Trump World, where voters who never tire of proclaiming their holiness are voting for an aging playboy who brags about the married women he’s seduced. (In his book The Art of the Deal.) But he’s going to put Them back in their place, isn’t he?

Yeah, well, good luck with that.

Anyway, I suspect Hillary has found a winning theme.

Meanwhile, pundits seem oddly reluctant to say so, but Bernie’s candidacy imploded due to a classic political blunder when he accused his opponent of pandering to African-American voters by supporting President Obama.

“Hillary Clinton now is trying to embrace the president as closely as she possibly can. Everything the president does is wonderful. She loves the president, he loves her and all that stuff,” Sanders said sarcastically. “And we know what that’s about. That’s trying to win support from the African-American community, where the president is enormously popular.”

Never mind that she was Obama’s Secretary of State. Bernie delivered these remarks in an interview with BET’s Marc Lamont Hill on February 18. His poll numbers have plummeted like a stone ever since.

In early February, Gallup reported that Sanders’ net favorable rating stood at 57 percent to Clinton’s 44. By the March 1 “Super Tuesday” primaries, those numbers were reversed. Bernie dropped thirteen points as Clinton rose.

I wouldn’t presume to speak for black voters, but they tend to be very acute about being patronized. Indeed, 81 percent of Democrats generally have a favorable opinion of President Obama, along with a reported 97 percent of black voters in South Carolina.

Sanders’ remarks weren’t merely insulting, but tone deaf and objectively dumb. As South Carolina’s Rep. Jim Clyburn put it, “I don’t know how you can look at Mrs. Clinton’s history—she was not running for president in the 1970s when she came to South Carolina to work with those African-American juvenile detainees or juvenile inmates trying to better their conditions, when she went to work with Marian Wright Edelman, a native of Bennettsville, South Carolina, to come down here working with her trying to better the lives of children…So, what was she doing? Who was she pandering to back then?”

Not Barack Obama, Clyburn noted, who was in junior high school.

But then the Sanders campaign’s idea of a South Carolina surrogate was Princeton professor and controversialist Cornell West, author of this immortal trope:

“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men. It’s understandable,” West said. “As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white…When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening.”

Nothing scarier than a Princeton revolutionary.

West recently suggested that civil rights icons Clyburn and Rep. John Lewis had sold out to Wall Street.

“Tell you what,” President Obama might have responded if he were a character in a Portis novel, “don’t pee on my shoes and tell me it’s raining.”

As the results of this foolishness became manifest, some Sanders supporters began suggesting it was wrong for “red state” voters to have so much to say about the Democratic nomination.

Only Yankees need apply.

“Given the reality of a Republican presidential primary where the candidates are racing to outdo each other in their contempt for people of color…” Nancy LeTourneau writes in Washington Monthly, “is it any surprise that African Americans would assume that this country is facing the threat of a confederate insurgency?”

No surprise at all.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, March 2, 2016

March 3, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Black Voters, Hillary Clinton, Mainstream Media | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Heads She Loses, Tails She Loses”: Clinton Coverage Goes Off The Rails — Again

“She shouts,” complained Washington Post editor Bob Woodward last week on MSNBC, deducting points for Clinton’s speaking style. “There is something unrelaxed about the way she is communicating, and I think that just jumps off the television screen.”

“Has nobody told her that the microphone works?” quipped Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough, who led a lengthy discussion about Clinton’s voice (the “tone issue”). Scarborough and his guests dissected Clinton’s “screaming,” and how she is supposedly being “feisty” and acting “not natural.”

Over on Fox, Geraldo Rivera suggested Clinton “scream[s]” because she “may be hard of hearing.” CNBC’s Larry Kudlow bemoaned her “shrieking.”

During last week’s debate, Bob Cusack, editor of The Hilltweeted, “When Hillary Clinton raises her voice, she loses.” (Cusack later deleted the tweet and apologized.) During a discussion on CNN about Clinton’s volume, David Gergen stressed, “Hillary was so angry compared to Sanders.”

The New York Times’ debate coverage pushed the same “angry” narrative, detailing “The ferocity of Mrs. Clinton’s remarks,” and how she appeared “tense and even angry at times,” “particularly sensitive,” and was “going on the offensive.” (By contrast, her opponent “largely kept his cool.”)

Media message received: Clinton is loud and cantankerous!

But it’s not just awkward gender stereotypes that are in play these days. It’s a much larger pattern of thumb-on-the-scale coverage and commentary. Just look at what seemed to be the press’ insatiable appetite to frame Clinton’s Iowa caucus win last week as an unnerving loss. Pundits also inaccurately claimed that she had to rely on a series of coin tosses to secure a victory.

As I’ve noted before, these anti-Clinton guttural roars from the press have become predictable, cyclical events, where pundits and reporters wind themselves up with righteous indignation and shift into pile-on mode regardless of the facts on the ground. (And the GOP cheers.) The angry eruptions now arrive like clockwork, but that doesn’t make them any less baffling. Nor does that make it any easier to figure out why the political press corps has decided to wage war on the Democratic frontrunner. (And publicly admit that they’re doing it.)

Sure, the usual nutty anti-Clinton stuff is tumbling off the right-wing media branches, with Fox News suggesting her campaign was nothing more than “bra burning,” while other conservatives mocked her “grating” voice.

But what’s happening inside the confines of the mainstream media is more troubling. Rush Limbaugh advertising his insecurities about powerful women isn’t exactly breaking news. Watching Beltway reporters and pundits reveal their creeping contempt for Clinton and wrapping it in condescension during a heated primary season is disturbing. And for some, it might trigger bouts of déjà vu.

It was fitting that the extended examination of Clinton’s “tone” last week unfolded on Morning Joe. As Think Progress noted, that show served as a hotbed for weird gender discussions when Clinton ran for president in 2008: “Scarborough often referenced the ‘Clinton cackle’ and another panelist cracked a joke that Clinton reminded everyone of their ‘first wife in probate court.'” (The crack about probate court got lots of laughs from Scarborough’s all-male panel at the time.)

The toxic put-downs during the heated Democratic primary in 2008 were everywhere. (i.e. Candidate Clinton was a “hellish housewife.”) At the time, Salon’s Rebecca Traister detected among male pundits “a nearly pornographic investment in Clinton’s demise.”

And that was not an understatementFrom Dr. Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University:

She was referred to as a “white bitch” on MSNBC and CNN; a blood-sucking “vampire” on Fox; the “wicked witch of the west” on CNN; and “everyone’s first wife standing outside of probate court,” a “she devil” and the castrating Lorena Bobbitt, all on MSNBC.

That Clinton was unfairly roughed up by the press in 2008 isn’t really a question for debate anymore. Even the man who campaigned against her, President Obama, recently noted that “there were times where I think the media probably was a little unfair to her” during their Democratic primary battle.

I wonder if Obama thinks the press is once again being unfair with its primary coverage.

For example, as the press continues to focus on the issue of Clinton’s speaking fees as a private citizen, the New York Times reported, “The former secretary of state has for months struggled to justify how sharing her views on global affairs could possibly fetch $225,000 a pop from banks. ”

The former secretary of state can’t justify her large speaking fee, even though former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, among others, have all pocketed large, six-figure speaking fees?

Author Carl Bernstein said at CNN, “Now, you’ve got a situation with these transcripts, a little bit like Richard Nixon and his tapes that he stonewalled on and wouldn’t release.”

Over the past week, media outlets have been trying to explain how Clinton’s hard-fought win in Iowa wasn’t really a win.

During the run-up to the vote, Iowa was often described as a state that Clinton absolutely had to win (electorally, it wasn’t). And so then when she won, what did some in the press do? They claimed she didn’t really win Iowa, and if she did it was because of lucky coin tosses.

False and false.

“Even if he doesn’t actually win, this feels like a win for @BernieSanders,” tweeted Associated Press reporter Lisa Lerer the night of the Iowa vote, echoing a widespread media talking point. The New York Times repeatedly referred to her Iowa victory as a “tie.”

Note the contrast: In 2012, when Mitt Romney claimed to have won the Iowa Republican caucus by just eight votes, The New York Times announced unequivocally that Romney had, in fact, won Iowa. (Weeks later a recount concluded Rick Santorum won the caucus by 34 votes.)

Why was Iowa dubbed a loss by so many for Clinton? Because Sanders “was nowhere a few months ago,” as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer put it the night of the vote.

Actually, if you go back to last September and October, polls showed the Iowa race was in flux and occasionally veered within the margin of error. More recently, CNN’s final Iowa poll before the caucus had Clinton trailing by eight points in that state. So the idea a close Iowa finish was “surprising,” or constituted a Clinton collapse, doesn’t add up.

Meanwhile, did you notice that when the Clinton campaign accurately predicted that it had the votes to win the caucus, members of the press were quick to mock the move. Even after Iowa officials declared her the winner, the Clinton campaign was attacked as being “disingenuous” for saying she was the winner.

And then there was the weird embrace of the coin toss story, which was fitting, since so much of the Clinton campaign coverage these days seems to revolve around a very simple premise: Heads she loses, tails she loses.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, February 8, 2016

February 13, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Mainstream Media, Political Reporters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Another ‘Here Comes Marco Rubio!’ Boomlet”: Can The Media And The GOP Establishment Sell Marco Rubio To GOP Voters?

“This is the moment they said would never happen!” said a triumphant Marco Rubio in his victory speech last night in Iowa. It was an odd thing to say, coming from a guy who just came in third, after all the polls showed him running…third. And while he didn’t specify who “they” were, that kind of vague “they” usually refers to the powers that be, the hidebound thinkers of the political and media elite. Which is also odd, because those are the people who have always been most enthusiastic about Rubio.

If all the attention in the GOP presidential primary will now narrow down to three candidates — Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump — there’s no question who the choice of the Republican establishment (and yes, I know it’s a problematic term, but it does refer to something real) will be. After panicking for weeks about the race coming down to a choice between an erratic billionaire with no commitment to the party and an insurgent ideologue even other Republicans find loathsome, Rubio offers the only way out, the party’s best chance of avoiding disaster in the fall.

So we’re upon another “Here comes Marco Rubio!” boomlet, even though it’s based on almost nothing other than the fact that he somehow “exceeded expectations” by coming in exactly where everyone expected him to in Iowa, albeit with a few more points of support than polls had shown. As I argued yesterday, when someone does better than expectations, it doesn’t tell us much about them; it just tells us that those doing the expecting were wrong. But no matter — today’s headlines tell us of “Marco Rubio’s very big night in Iowa,” to “Forget Ted Cruz: Marco Rubio is the big winner of the Iowa caucuses,” that “After Iowa, keep your eye on Marco Rubio, not Trump or Cruz,” and “Why the Iowa caucus was a win for Marco Rubio, even though he lost to Ted Cruz.”

Cruz told NBC: “I’m amused at listening to media talk about ‘what an impressive third place finish!’” But since Cruz portrays himself as the scourge of both the media and political elite, it’s probably fine by him. He’ll now get to say that he’s the insurgent and Rubio represents the establishment, which in addition to tapping into the Republican electorate’s mood of disillusionment will have the virtue of being true.

The Republican establishment knows that Rubio looks like the most electable candidate — he’s not a loose cannon like Trump and not a bitter ideologue like Cruz. And as Michael Brendan Dougherty argues, “Rubio’s candidacy is essentially based on the premise that nothing from the George W. Bush era has to change for the Republican Party,” that even though he may look different, he’s offering the same policy prescription as ever: tax cuts for the wealthy, an interventionist foreign policy, and a hard right line on social issues. Also, unlike Cruz, Rubio doesn’t spend all his time lambasting Washington Republicans for being a bunch of traitorous weaklings.

But why would the supposedly liberal media think so highly of Rubio? To begin with, let’s not kid ourselves: they do. He’s not personally repellent or drawn to kamikaze tactics, like Cruz, and he’s not crazy, like Trump. Rubio is a good speaker, is pretty informed about policy, and has a heartwarming personal story about his immigrant parents. When those journalists and commentators say so, and write stories describing how Rubio’s campaign is about to blossom, they’re expressing their faith in the process. Regardless of their personal ideology, they’d like to believe that this whole chaotic mess eventually winds up in a somewhat rational place. If the GOP nominates Rubio, it’s proof that the process works and one of our two great parties has not completely lost its mind.

How does that square with all the attention given to Donald Trump? Trump pulls the media in two different directions. On one hand, he’s an irresistible story, a compelling personality who constantly says appallingly newsworthy things and drives his opponents crazy. We’ve loved reporting on him and writing about him. It’s been a hoot. But on the other hand, were Trump to actually win, it would show that the system can be hacked, that a kind of lunacy had taken over, that the worst kind of demagoguery and the shallowest kind of celebrity can combine to hijack what is supposed to be a relatively orderly and predictable process. And to people who care about politics, whatever their personal beliefs about issues, that would be a disturbing result.

So whether they’re consciously aware of it or not, most people in the media would probably prefer Trump to fall eventually, after we’ve all been thoroughly entertained by his candidacy. Rubio as the GOP nominee might not be as much fun, but it makes sense.

We’ve been through this before. Four months ago, we witnessed the sudden emergence of articles predicting that Rubio was about to rise. Unfortunately for him, the voters didn’t get the memo; in the average of national polls he stands at 10 percent, not too far from where he’s been all along. Maybe now that the voting has started and other candidates have begun falling away, Rubio will gain support and even win a primary somewhere. But at the moment, outside of Iowa, he’s still the candidate of the elites, not the voters.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, February 2, 2016

February 3, 2016 Posted by | Establishment Republicans, GOP Voters, Mainstream Media, Marco Rubio | , , , , , | 2 Comments

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