The Pardu

The Pardu
Watchful eyes and ears feed the brain, thus nourishing the brain cells.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


We realize long website readers are "not ok" in an age of 140 characters and enormous enticement to move o to the next cognitive internet charge.  How man tiems have your heard, "If I wanted a long read such as that, I would purchase or checkout a book."  We assume people still checkout books from ;libraries, but we could have suffered a case of mid-level Baby Boomer brain flatulence.

We actually have a history of long posts without hesitation based of our credo that information is food for the brain and insulation from social evils and political malfeasance endemic in American Conservatism. The following piece is, frankly small book length. Despite our inclination to post the entire piece, We have posted an Overview from the research study report and link to the full article. 

We also do not hesitate to identify articles as "Must Read." The following is a must read if you want deep perspective on a serious ill in American Society. Conservatism today is not the conservatism of old. It doesn't look, feel, nor smell like Dwight Eisenhower's conservatism. The nation's informed can find validation of the ills of US conservatism by spending a few short minutes watching and listening to their presidential candidates, by understanding the uber wealthy oligarch money grip on the GOP, and by suffering the  horrors of a society dissolving it a festering mess.

Informed people make good decisions. 

Hey if the piece is too long, and it is for most websites, read the piece in parts. 

The follow research study is provided via Creative Commons License:  

July 27, 2015, 9:30 am
A new paper by Jackie Calmes, Joan Shorenstein Fellow (Spring 2015) and national correspondent for The New York Times, examines the increasing influence of conservative media on the Republican Party’s agenda.
Calmes traces the history of conservative media, from its founding after World War II to the present-day proliferation of talk radio and Internet personalities. She finds that beyond the big names and outlets such as Limbaugh and Fox, smaller local personalities also exert significant influence over listeners and politicians.
This influence is troubling to leaders in the Republican Party, who Calmes interviewed extensively for the paper. She argues that today’s conservative media now shapes the agenda of the party, pushing it to the far right – at the expense of its ability to govern and pick presidential nominees.
Read a related article by Calmes in The New York Times“As  the GOP Base Clamors for Confrontation, Candidates Oblige.”
Listen to Calmes discuss her paper on our Media & Politics Podcast:


Republicans should still have been celebrating in late January 2015. Only weeks earlier they had opened the 114thCongress with a Senate majority for the first time in eight years, as well as a fattened majority in the House, where they had ruled since 2011 – full control of the legislative branch for the first time in Barack Obama’s presidency. Yet in reality, Republicans were out of control. They only had themselves to blame, and many did. So unhappy was Representative Charlie Dent, a six-term Pennsylvanian and one of the few surviving Republican moderates, he emerged from a private party caucus in January to share with reporters waiting outside the complaint he had made to colleagues behind closed doors: “Week one, we had a speaker election that did not go as well as a lot of us would have liked. Week two, we got into a big fight over deporting children, something that a lot of us didn’t want to have a discussion about. Week three, we are now talking about rape and incest and reportable rapes and incest for minors,” Dent said. “I just can’t wait for week four.”[1]
If leaders of the Republican Party are not setting its agenda, who is?
Indeed, the coming weeks only got worse. That owed to a February showdown with President Obama over immigration policy that Republican leaders had teed up back in December, during a lame-duck Congress, when their immediate concern was getting their militant members out of town for the holidays without provoking another government shutdown. But they knew then that they were merely postponing the inevitable, a battle doomed to fail at the opening of the new, Republican-led Congress. Much like Republicans’ politically disastrous ploy in the fall of 2013, when they shuttered the government to try to force Obama to support repeal of his signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act, this early 2015 clash with the president also turned on an empty threat – Republicans implausibly vowed to withhold money for homeland security programs, even as terrorist acts filled the news, unless Obama agreed to reverse his recent executive actions on immigration and deport millions of young people brought to the country illegally as children, and their parents, too. Come January 2015 House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gamely led the charge. It predictably backfired and by March the unhappy duo engineered the retreat they had known would have to come. Congress approved a “clean” bill funding homeland security, without any language restricting the administration on immigration.
It was a humiliating debut for a party that had promised in the 2014 midterm elections that Republicans would show the nation how well they could govern, if only voters would put them completely in charge of Congress. Considering that the humiliation was self-inflicted (Did anyone really believe McConnell, one of Congress’s wiliest players, would have scripted this chaotic curtain-raiser?), no drama could have better demonstrated that the leaders of the Republican Party do not fully control its agenda. By spring, Congress did pass a series of significant measures – addressing terrorism insurance, human trafficking and veterans’ suicides, for instance, and fixing a longtime policy headache involving Medicare reimbursements to doctors. But Democrats’ cooperation had helped, and no one interpreted those achievements as a sign that Republicans would be able to perform the bigger, essential governing tasks that loomed, of passing annual appropriations bills and raising the nation’s debt limit, without the messy intraparty ruptures and brinkmanship of recent years. [2]
That other forces were shaping Republicans’ agenda was likewise evident on a parallel track, as their party began the long process of picking a 2016 presidential nominee. Here, too, the immigration issue was front-and-center, and not in the way that the Republican leadership had called for in its unsparing autopsy of the party’s 2012 election losses. That earlier analysis, commissioned by the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, had called for “positive solutions on immigration” and less divisive rhetoric; nominee Mitt Romney, who had called on undocumented immigrants to “self-deport,” had received just 27 percent of the votes from an expanding Latino electorate, when at least 40 percent was considered essential for victory – a threshold that will rise as the Latino voting population does. “If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence,” the party study said. “It doesn’t matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy.”[3]
Two years later, Republicans’ positions and rhetoric on immigration could not be more contrary to that advice. While Jeb Bush, the Republican establishment’s favorite for 2016 and a Spanish-speaking former governor of Florida, has just the sort of record that party elders had in mind – long favoring a legal path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented residents – he is widely perceived as a weakened, even fatally flawed candidate for the nomination because of it. Similarly, another contender who had been hailed as a new-generation star, Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio, by 2015 was being all but written off by many conservative media figures and activists for having been part of a bipartisan “Gang of Eight” in the Senate that in 2013 won overwhelming passage of a comprehensive immigration bill, which then died in the Republican-led House of willful neglect.

Worse for Bush, he also is on the wrong side of what has become another litmus test in Republicans’ presidential race: the so-called Common Core education standards. Conceived some years ago as a bipartisan initiative of the nation’s governors, Common Core by 2013 had been redefined by hardline conservatives in media and activist groups as an attempted federal takeover of public school classrooms. So when the 2016 field began taking shape, once-supportive Republicans including Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie reversed themselves. Bush did not, but by this year he was neither advertising his support nor using the words “Common Core.”

If leaders of the Republican Party are not setting its agenda, who is?

As many of them concede, it is conservative media – not just talk-show celebrities Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham, but also lesser-known talkers like Steve Deace, and an expanding web of “news” sites and social media outlets with financial and ideological alliances with far-right anti-government, anti-establishment groups like Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth and FreedomWorks. Once allied with but now increasingly hostile to the Republican hierarchy, conservative media is shaping the party’s agenda in ways that are impeding Republicans’ ability to govern and to win presidential elections. “These people, practically speaking, are preventing the Republican Party from governing, which means they’re really preventing it from becoming a presidential party as well,” said Geoffrey Kabaservice, author of Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party, and himself a Republican.[4]

And who is Steve Deace? The baby-faced 41-year-old Deace (pronounced Dace) is a college dropout, self-described one-time loser, former part-time sports writer and born-again Christian who one day unexpectedly found himself with a radio show in Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation contest for aspiring presidential nominees. Nine years later, he is nationally syndicated from Des Moines and a prolific columnist and social media presence with tens of thousands of followers. As such, the entrepreneurial Deace exemplifies the otherwise obscure and deeply conservative new-media figures who, collectively, often call the shots in the Republican Party, by both provoking and amplifying the party’s conservative activists and their hardline positions. His motto is “Fear God. Tell the Truth. Make Money.”

Twenty years ago, former radio shock-jock Rush Limbaugh was mostly alone, though soon to be joined by Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel in playing to conservative audiences and validating their biases. Since then – to an extent unimagined as recently as Barack Obama’s election – the combination of the Internet and social media, broadcast deregulation and technological advances like live-streaming and on-demand audio and video “products” have allowed these new voices and scribblers to proliferate, empowering figures who boast of being more conservative than Fox and “El Rushbo” to shape Republican politics.

“It’s not just talk radio, but the blogosphere, the Internet – they’re all intertwined now. You’ve got this constant chorus of skepticism about anything the quote-unquote establishment does,” said a longtime former top aide to House Republican leaders, Dave Schnittger. And, he said, the chorus is loudest in opposition to those actions that are fundamental to governing: meeting basic fiscal deadlines for funding the government and allowing it to borrow. “Those are the things that leaders have to get done as part of governing,” the Republican said, “as much as conservative media may hate it.”[5]

Said another Republican, who has worked in the top ranks of congressional and presidential politics, but, like some others, asked to remain unidentified lest he provoke the far-right messengers against his current boss: “It’s so easy these days to go out there and become an Internet celebrity by saying some things, and who cares if it’s true or makes any sense. It’s a new frontier: How far to the right can you get? And there’s no incentive to ever really bother with reality.” Or to compromise: “There’s no money, ratings or clicks in everyone going along to get along.”

Asked whether he could offer examples of legislative outcomes affected by conservative media, this Republican all but snapped, “Sure. All of ‘em.” Does he worry more broadly then about the small-d democratic process? “Yeah, absolutely. Because the loudest voices drown out the sensible ones and there’s no real space to have serious discussions.”[6]

“One of the realities here is that these people have always existed,” said Norman J. Ornstein, a political scientist at the center-right American Enterprise Institute and co-author with Thomas E. Mann of the book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, about what the authors see as the radicalization of the Republican Party. “But they were at the fringes, the John Birch Society types. Now, because of social media and because you have a culture of extremism that is not culled out more generally, they can move into the mainstream and actually hijack a major party. And that’s what’s going on here.”[7]

Those in the maligned Republican Party establishment – including many who not so long ago were themselves proud troublemakers for the conservative cause, and who are conservative still by any rational measure – are left to wonder whether the Republican Party is capable of governing. “I would say there is a serious question of whether or not it’s a governing party,” said Vin Weber, a Republican strategist and former congressman from Minnesota, who in the 1980s was, along with Newt Gingrich, a leader of right-wing, anti-establishment rebels in the House.[8] As he and congressional leaders fear, this winter’s intraparty collision over homeland-security spending and immigration will look trifling compared to likely fights ahead in 2015 over must-pass spending bills and increasing the debt limit again to avert default.

Conservative media, having helped push the party so far to the anti-government, anti-compromise ideological right, attacks Republican leaders for taking the smallest step toward the moderate middle.

Establishment Republicans say they aspire to push their party closer to society’s political center – on immigration, gay rights, climate change and more – much as Democrats slowly moderated from a leftist party in the 1970s to a left-of-center one by the Clinton era, or as Britain’s Labor Party similarly shifted under Tony Blair in the late 1990s. In that, these Republicans agree with Mann and Ornstein, who wrote in a 2013 afterword to their book: “After losing five of six presidential elections between 1968 and 1988, Democrats (thanks in large part to the Democratic Leadership Council and Bill Clinton) made a striking adjustment that put them in a position to nominate credible presidential candidates, develop center-left policies responsive to the interests of a majority of voters, and govern in a less ideological, more pragmatic, problem-solving mode. Nothing would contribute more to strengthening American democracy than Republicans going through that same experience.”[9]

Yet even though it is now Republicans who have lost the popular vote for president in five of the last six elections, party leaders lament that Democrats’ late 20th century model for moderating is inoperative for Republicans in this 21st century Internet age. The problem, as they see it: Conservative media, having helped push the party so far to the anti-government, anti-compromise ideological right, attacks Republican leaders for taking the smallest step toward the moderate middle. “In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Democrats weren’t dealing with a media that has become the way the conservative media has become,” which is “much more powerful than John Boehner and Mitch McConnell,” said Matthew Dowd, a strategist in George W. Bush’s campaigns. Democratic leaders “didn’t have to deal with a quote-unquote liberal media out there that was going to confront them every time they took a turn.”[10]

“If you stray the slightest from the far right,” said former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who continues to advise Republican congressional leaders, “you get hit by the conservative media.”[11] David Price, a longtime Democratic congressman from North Carolina and a former political science professor, said, “One of the generalizations we all grew up with in political science is how candidates have to tend to the middle – that’s where the votes are. Republicans have changed that.”[12] Weber, the former Republican congressman, complained that while elected representatives should reflect the views of their constituents, “the problem you have in the Republican Party is that people are adjusting farther than they really need to” – to avoid a primary challenge.[13]

Conservative media indeed draws much of its power, Republicans say, from incumbents’ fear of a primary challenge. Not surprisingly, talk-show hosts and conservative pundits stoke that fear by inviting challengers to run against incumbents deemed too quick to compromise, and then encourage support for them, including financially. Some Republicans say that dynamic – incumbents’ fear, media’s threat – was intensified in last year’s midterm elections despite the party’s overall triumphs. Among the few Republican losers was a big one: Eric Cantor, the House majority leader. He had been widely seen as heir apparent to Boehner, and conservatives’ choice – until he began arguing that Republicans should support legal status for so-called Dreamers, young people brought to this country illegally as children. Cantor thereby revived many conservatives’ suspicions about whether he really was one of them.

Laura Ingraham, the nationally syndicated talk-show host and a vehement foe of immigration reforms, decided to promote Cantor’s dark-horse rival in Virginia’s Republican primary, Dave Brat, and then was called a giant-killer when Brat unexpectedly won. While Republicans quibble over how much Ingraham actually had to do with the result – Cantor had, they agree, neglected his Richmond-area district as his national prominence grew – his defeat left many congressional incumbents further cowed by the power of conservative media, and hardened against immigration. “Immigration reform, any hope of it, just basically died,” said a senior Senate aide.[14] That solidifying of opposition contributed to Republicans’ miscalculations in December’s lame-duck session, when they made funding for homeland security contingent on Obama repealing his immigration policies. As further evidence of the Cantor fallout, one House Republican leader recalled in an interview how many Virginia Republicans had defied Boehner in March when he put to a vote a bill to fund homeland security programs for three more weeks to buy time for negotiations with Democrats on immigration. And not just Virginians, the leader said: “Guys that you would normally expect to be okay you could see responding to the political pressure. They saw the immigration issue as a major issue in Eric’s defeat.”[15] Not for the first or last time, the speaker lost due to party defections.

As for those in the widening world of conservative media, for all of their complaints about the establishment, they are only too happy to acknowledge their influence in shaping the political agenda. “I don’t think conservative media is shaping it as much as it would like to, but it’s shaping it more than Washington would like it to,” said Deace. “I don’t think it’s moving fast enough for conservatives like myself, but it is clearly dragging the Republicans along, kicking and screaming.”[16]

Setting the agenda, however, is not the same as winning, whether in the congressional or presidential arenas. Conservative media, and the conservative activists the media gives voice to, often do not win: Witness the retreat on the homeland security and immigration fight this year, the failed 2013 government shutdown, or Romney’s nomination over more conservative rivals in 2012. Or consider House Republicans’ futile 50-plus attempts to repeal all or part of Obama’s health-insurance law, and without offering any alternative plan, given the opposition among conservative media and activists to any role for the federal government.

Yet those in conservative media, whether in print, online, or radio and TV broadcasting, invariably see these fights as a win-win: They and their audiences repeatedly get to set the agenda, to provoke a confrontation in defense of what they see as conservative principles. And when the fight fails – well, that is Republican leaders’ fault for not fighting hard enough. Conservative media can always find a like-minded politician – say, senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz – to say so. And with each loss or retreat, conservative media and its readers, viewers and listeners are only further enraged at the Republican establishment. That anger was behind the divisive first act of the new Republican Congress: House conservatives’ attempt to oust Boehner as speaker.

Similarly, conservative media figures see the process of picking presidential nominees as a win-win. Establishment Republicans are quick to point out, as two did in interviews in identical terms, “Their track record is not very good.”[17] But while those in conservative media generally have not picked recent Republican nominees, they have defined the terms of debate. By backing the most conservative contenders and enforcing litmus tests, they have forced the ultimate nominee further right – weakening Romney and, before him, Senator John McCain among swing voters in the general election. Yet when the nominee loses, that is the fault of his campaign and the national party, in conservative media’s telling.

In 2008 and 2012, conservative media did not coalesce around a single candidate. In 2008, many in the media ultimately supported Romney in an unsuccessful bid to block McCain after their first choices, like former minister and Arkansas governor Huckabee, foundered. But four years later, with several ideological conservatives in the running, most in conservative media opposed Romney as a flip-flopping moderate-in-disguise – a dread RINO, Republican In Name Only. Romney’s call for illegal immigrants to “self-deport,” so damaging in the end, was his way of getting to the right of rivals, chiefly Texas Governor Rick Perry, and playing to conservative media – and through them to conservative voters during the primaries.

While those in conservative media generally have not picked recent Republican nominees, they have defined the terms of debate.

Weber, the former insurgent congressman turned establishment leader, said of conservative media, “What’s bad from the 2012 campaign is not that they won, but that they set the agenda. What difference did it make to the Republican Party to have Romney defeat Rick Santorum if Romney’s going to embrace an agenda to the right of Rick Santorum?”[18] More generally, said a Republican who asked to remain unidentified, “There’s not a platform in the Laura Ingraham-Sean Hannity wing of conservatism. There’s nothing that you can take to the country and hope to win the presidency on that they believe in. I mean, anti-immigration, don’t hesitate to shut down the government, repeal Obamacare, no new taxes – that’s not a governing platform. That will rally 40 percent of the population.”[19]

That is not, of course, how those in conservative media see it. Especially in talk radio, they argue – as their media predecessors did in the first decades after World War II – that Republicans win the White House when their message and their messenger are truly conservative, “a choice, not an echo” of Democrats, as Phyllis Schlafly famously wrote in 1964. To this day, conservatives’ certainty of that is undimmed by the fact that in the year of Schlafly’s book, right wing media and activists finally had prevailed in seeing their choice, Barry Goldwater, nominated, only to have him lose in a landslide and drag other Republicans with him. That defeat, conservative media insisted at the time, was the failure of the party establishment, which did not rally behind Goldwater and in some cases joined the liberal media and Democrats in labeling him an extremist. Looking toward 2016, once again the search for a true conservative animates the Republican right, but with an increased intensity that reflects the proliferation and combativeness of conservative media. As in recent quadrennials, conservative media is not united behind a candidate to favor, only the one to oppose: Jeb Bush. In February The Washington Post had a story headlined “Jeb Bush has a serious talk radio problem,” [20] followed in March by a Politico story entitled “Jeb’s Talk Radio Problem.”[21] By all accounts, and as Bush himself has suggested, his candidacy will test whether a Republican can run without pandering to conservative media, and with mainly the November electorate in mind.

Read (much) more with extensive attribution and citations.

END Research Overivew......

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