Friday, November 28, 2008

Markos on the Rightroots: "Building machines"

Crashing the Gate was, in large part, an ode to the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, which had been so effective at crafting the Republican message, delivering it to the American people, and getting its messengers elected to office. At a time other progressives were expending energy trying to discredit it, we saw it as a model to emulate.
Now it's conservatives' turn to plead for their side to emulate our machine. Yet here's the funny thing -- their machine is still bigger and better funded than ours. If I could trade Daily Kos for Fox News and the entire AM radio dial, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I'd make some major changes at those media outlets, of course (beyond a change of ideology), most of them dealing with how they interact with their audiences online, but really, their problem isn't that they don't have an equivalent to Daily Kos or MoveOn, their problem is that their ideas suck, and now progressives have enough of a machine to counteract their lies and smears.

Remember, a party predicated on the notion that government sucks and can't do anything right can't possibly run an administration that doesn't suck and can do anything right. Competent conservative governance would instantly invalidate conservatism's core tenets. That's why Bush named horse lawyers to FEMA, and why fourth-tier law school grads have infested every corner of the Justice Department. George W. Bush wasn't an anomaly, he delivered the most effectively conservative administration in history.

So given that they couldn't promise effective governance, Republicans needed their machine -- lying about their own record, and slinging copious amounts of mud at our guys. "Liberal" thus became a dirty word. Even Obama has admitted that Fox News single-handedly cost him milions of votes.

I am convinced that if there were no Fox News, I might be two or three points higher in the polls," Obama told me. "If I were watching Fox News, I wouldn’t vote for me, right? Because the way I’m portrayed 24/7 is as a freak! I am the latte-sipping, New York Times-reading, Volvo-driving, no-gun-owning, effete, politically correct, arrogant liberal. Who wants somebody like that?"

That's some powerful shit. Not long ago, elected Democrats and candidates knew that if they stuck their neck out and did what was right, they'd get slammed by the partisan conservative machine, with little from the progressive side to counteract those attacks. So it became easier to capitulate to the Right -- an instinct that still pervades many of the dead-weight Democrats sitting in Congress today. (Notice how shocked they still act when they get whacked from the Left. They're used to only getting grief from the Right, so they get deeply offended when hit by "their" side.)

But that battle is no longer one-sided. Their machine may be bigger, but we have something. And that's all we ever needed -- a hint of a partisan progressive media machine, fed by research and investigative reporting from the likes of ThinkProgress and Talking Points Memo, to begin delivering our message in the face of their vast media machine, as well as ineffective CW-meisters like Maureen Dowd, Mark Halperin, and David Broder.

So what does the Right have to build if they already have institutions crafting their message, and a vast media machine to deliver it to the people? They've got the infrastructure in place. Sure, it can be tweaked here and there, but we're not talking the challenge facing us progressives six years ago, when we had nothing promoting the partisan progressive agenda (no matter how much conservatives whine about the "liberal media"). We had to build our machine from scratch; theirs still reaches vastly more people than ours.

So now the Patrick Ruffinis on the Right argue that they need their own machine to replace their powerful existing one, as if shiny new websites will suddenly fix what ails them. In reality, their problem is that their ideology has failed. Conservatism has failed, in a very public way, and people now recoil from its siren song. That's not a marketing problem. It's as if people suddenly realized that what they were drinking wasn't Coke, but New Coke. And hundreds of millions of dollars wasn't going to fix that problem.

One last point:

I believe there's something of a cottage industry speculating on when the conservatives will develop an internet presence to rival the left's. Today, it's Jose Antonio Vargas publishing a piece on the rightroots, but it's been in Newsweek, in the Politico many times, and their whole drilling Twitter fiasco captured a bunch of publicity. It's rather amusing to see the same establishment news outlets rail against liberal impotence while sending journalists to find out when the right will build a fearsome presence to rival those impotent liberals, but consistency is not a strong suit of modern politics.

Yup. Hilarious.

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