Digby highlighted a very interesting segment with Bernie Goldberg and Bill O’Reilly on The Factor recently. Goldberg was providing what passes for the “reasonable” Republican position that the the Democrats and Republicans are pretty much the same when it comes to media coverage, “Liberal news organizations are going to play down liberal screw-ups, but Fox News is gonna play down conservative screw-ups.” O’Reilly was having none of it. He countered that his show featured people of all political orientations. That’s a laugh, but entirely typical.
I once had a conservative on this site trolling around. He would find some liberal opinion I made and say, “Aha! Liberal bias!” I was flattered that he was mistaking me for the “mainstream media,” but it was ridiculous. One of the biggest differences between partisans on the two sides is that conservatives live is bizarro world where they are somehow the center. I’m well aware that my opinions are far to the left in the context of this country. Maybe it is because the conservative media system is so cut off that it is easier for them to only see other conservative media. Regardless, it sets up a system where extreme conservatives like Goldberg are “reasonable” just because they are vaguely aware that they are conservative.
Digby observed something that I know only too well from my own experiences:
Exactly! This is where we get so many “independent” voters who are actually people who consider the Republican Party too liberal. They don’t consider themselves Republicans because they are disappointed with the Republican Party — it doesn’t always do what they want. In other words, they are just spoiled brats who aren’t willing to affiliate with any party unless it is perfectly aligned with their beliefs. Yet they still reliably vote Republican, although they may occasionally vote for the Constitution Party or, very tellingly, the American Independent Party.
It’s a funny kind of conceit. But I think it is more often just pure delusion. There is a reason why conservatism is so associated with rural areas. These people don’t get out much. All they see are people like themselves. And that makes it very easy to vilify people who are not like them, and deny other people their humanity. It also allows them to live in a bubble where all the things they get from the government are earned and all the things “those people” get are just giveaways.
There is a related issue with regard to this that I read about in Michelle Alexander’s excellent book, The New Jim Crow. People in high crime areas are less vengeful than people in low crime areas. So the people least likely to suffer from crime are the ones who think that people who commit the most minor offense should be given very long sentences. This is largely how we ended up with these horrible mandatory minimum sentences — especially for drug “crimes.” But I think it is primarily about lack of empathy. And that, above all else, is what defines Bill O’Reilly and his followers.
This makes these “independent” minds the hardest to deal with. They live in a world where they are convinced that they see the world without bias. And shockingly, they view the world this way even while being more conservative than I am liberal. How does one deal with such people who think that they define the very definition of “center”? In the land of Bill O’Reilly, a liberal is someone like Juan Williams who is an old fashioned conservative. In the context of modern American politics, he is just slightly center right. But to O’Reilly, he’s a liberal. And then people who are just slightly center left, like Dana Milbank, are “far left kooks.” I think such people are hopeless. And they are the basis of one of the main political parties in the United States, even while they won’t admit it.