By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal today in reaction to a USA Today/Gallup Poll showing that nearly half of Republicans and those leaning Republican couldn't name a leader for the party. The biggest vote-winner among Republicans was "nobody," followed by Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, and Dick Cheney. This vacuum has allowed the Democrats to brand the Republicans as the "party of no" as well as the "party of angry white men." Noonan notes that part of this is due to the fact that Republicans are out of power, which has happened before. Only this time, she says, the media infrastructure is very different:
Both conservative media and liberal media are alike in that they have to keep the ratings up, or the numbers up, or the hits. If they lose audience, they can lose everything from clout to ad revenue. Because they have to keep the numbers up, they have to keep it hot, which actually has some affect on the national conversation. The mainstream media is only too happy to headline it when a radio talker says Sonia Sotomayer is a dope. The radio talker may be doing it to play to his base, but the mainstream media does it to show that Republicans are mean, thick and angry.
On left and right, on cable and radio, political hosts see gain in hyping the story, agitating and exciting their listeners. All of this creates a circular, self-enclosed world in which it gets hotter and hotter and tighter and tighter ...
Must the Obama administration micromanage General Motors, institute a new health-care system, and institute a new energy regime? Must they mow down the opposition, shutting them out of the development of important bills? Well, the base likes this.
Can the radio host or the freelance policy maker calm down, become less polar and more thoughtful (yawn)? That would leave his base turning the dial and maybe going elsewhere.
Can the big left-wing and right-wing Web sites commit apostasy, rethink issues? In general, bases don't like that.
Everyone is looking to the base, the sliver, their piece of the pie, their slice of the demo. You wonder sometimes as you watch: Who's looking out for the country?
Things have changed. Over the last few months I've found the level of meanness and anger on the Internet—both from bloggers and their readers who comment—to be disturbing. Bill Bennett once famously asked, "Where's the outrage?" Increasingly, I find myself asking instead, "Where's the civility?"
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