Why the Grand Old Party should take a cue from ‘Survivor.’
In the two weeks since the election, political strategists on the right have proposed one theory after another about why Mitt Romney lost. VP nominee Paul Ryan credited Obama’s victory to unexpectedly high turnout in urban areas. Romney himself believes it was the “extraordinary financial gifts” Obama had given and promised voters that cost him the win, an unfortunate return to the rhetoric employed in the now-infamous 47% video. But what I haven’t heard is any discussion about the mouthpieces that once galvanized the GOP base and are now bogging them down.
There’s an exhaustive overhaul that needs to happen if the right wants to start winning elections again, and the prescription is multifaceted. But a good place to start might be to reevaluate the loudest voices in the party: the talking heads, the media advocates, the astroturfing puppets. Because it is the media, now more than ever, that polarizes and partisanizes the electorate. (That we need extensive media reform in this country is a different battle cry altogether.)
Certainly there’s a throughly-read, socially-aware, well-informed portion of voters, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that much of the American electorate comes to partisanship through the media they consume. It is the nature of talking points to be more easily digested, and all the better if you get some dynamic personality—often with a penchant for race-baiting and Brooks Brothers suits—to regurgitate them in high definition.
The problem is that the Republicans have done a terrible job in monitoring their microphones. And as much as they try to downplay and marginalize the Ann Coulters and the Glenn Becks, arguing that they are not representative of the party as a whole, these people have unquantifiable influence. More than three million people have purchased Coulter’s books, presumably in earnest. Beck’s radio show is the third most popular program in the country, at Sean Hannity’s heels. The power these voices wield is too often underestimated.
But what if the party did some serious work in trying to distance themselves from these polarizing “journalists” and find new voices that aren’t inherently anti-intellectual? Kinder voices. More thoughtful voices. More researched voices. What if the GOP came together and denounced Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh, and Michelle Malkin, and any other talking head who, in this past election cycle, set out to purposefully disinform their audience and throw red meat to closet racists. Slowly but surely, the country is moving past these lunatics. The GOP would do well to follow, because the future is not in the Drudge Report.
There are smart conservatives whose voices deserve to be heard. I want to hear more from people like Jon Huntsman. Or Andrew Sullivan. Or anyone else on the right who wants to move toward social progress, toward bipartisanship, toward a new GOP. I know these people exist, but there’s no room at the Republican Inn so long as it’s John Sununu they put on primetime.
So light those tiki torches. Get the mosquito nets. Call Jeff Probst.
And start voting some of these people off.
Image by joeshlabotnik / flickr