Media Like Rand Paul — They Are His Constituency

Rand PaulEd Kilgore wrote kind of a boring post about why it is that the Washington press made a bigger deal of Rand Paul’s predictable announcement that he was running for president than they did about Ted Cruz’s equally predictable announcement that he was running. Not mentioned is just the feeling that Cruz is such a loon that he can’t win. I always think that argument is terrifying, because people said much the same thing about Ronald Reagan. I would never count Cruz out. But the media thinks he’s a nonstarter (they are probably right), and so they don’t much care that he’s running for president. But Kilgore focuses on what is probably the bigger issue.

Kilgore wrote, Libertarianism With a Human Face. He quotes David Frum correctly noting that libertarianism appeals to mainstream media because it is “socially permissive, fiscally cautious.” This is the core of my indictment of the supposedly liberal media. Even in Eric Alterman’s classic What Liberal Media? he notes that the claim that the media are liberally biased on social issues is largely true. It isn’t that they go out of their way to be biased, it is just that everyone they know — including conservatives — are socially liberal. The Koch Brothers don’t actually care about same sex marriage and reproductive rights.

William SaletanThis is why I devalue social issues. The policies that the vast majority of people care about are bread-and-butter issue. Abortion and marriage are things that happen rarely in people’s lives. But they have to eat each day; they have to pay the rent each month. So the fact that the rich have managed, over the last last 70 years to make the whole political debate in this country to be about non-bread-and-butter issue is really an amazing defeat for democracy. Regardless of whether the Democrats or the Republicans are in power, the rich still win.

And it is doubtless the case that the greatest weapon that the rich have in their fight against democracy is the media who often discount the thoughts of the social conservatives, even while they serve up a constant diet of neoliberal policies designed to vilify the government and argue in favor of privatizing all services. If there is one thing in American media coverage that isn’t even questioned, it is that charter schools are a great thing and “school choice” is just common sense. And as all of this is taken for granted, never do we discuss the egregiously unequal way that we fund education.

And why is that? It is because the major media players who bring us their “objective news” are upper middle and upper class reporters and editors. They may not think of themselves as elites, but they are precisely the kind of people who Anand Giridharadas had in mind when he said:

If you live near a Whole Foods; if no one in your family serves in the military; if you are paid by the year, not the hour; if most people you know finished college; if no one you know uses meth; if you married once and remain married; if you’re not one of 65 million Americans with a criminal record — if any or all of these things describe you, then accept the possibility that actually, you may not know what’s going on, and you may be part of the problem.

But of course these media figures think they totally know what’s going on. And that’s a big part of the problem. The way that American politics is now divided, they can look at their socially liberal and economically conservative viewpoints and think that they are just telling it like it is. But what they are really doing is what the privileged have been doing for thousands of years: they are seeing what is good for them as being what is generally good. So of course they think that Rand Paul has a real chance to become president. They are his constituency.

See Also

Serious Centrist Saletan’s Selfishness
The People Don’t Care About Gridlock
Professional vs Regular Moderates
The “Moderate” Voter and the Selfish Pundit

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Media Like Rand Paul — They Are His Constituency

  1. Well, the thing about Paul, Walker, Cruz, any of them, is that their “stances” don’t matter. Not a whit. The candidate who gets the most financial backing wins the nomination, every time. If several candidates have roughly equal funding, the public perception of these candidates (“who’s more like me?”) could make a difference.

    Generally there’s a candidate who gets the most money. We saw that with the GOP nomination charade in 2012. There was a Romney-challenger-of-the-week out on the runway showing their stuff. Didn’t matter. Romney got the most money, Romney got the nomination.

    In the general election, I’m coming around to your “it’s the economy, stupid” metric. It seems pretty solid.

    Social issues are a big deal, but it’s gotten beyond that. I’ve talked to a lot of people who aren’t particularly religious, who don’t really have strong opinions on abortion or gay rights, and who still think “government” is corrupt and slovenly. When you nail them down on why, they mention frustration with health-insurance providers or credit-card companies or landlords!

    There are really horrible government agencies, the cops, the INS, FBI, NSA, several more. Most people have scant contact with these. The IRS is actually pretty helpful, as are the National Park Service, Social Security, Medicare, USPS. Which are the agencies most white Americans actually run into.

    What the right’s managed to do — besides stoking racist fire and fundamentalist paranoia about Gummint Controlling You — is turn public frustration with bureaucratic nonsense, the kind we deal with all the time, that’s usually from corporations, into frustration at government! At the very idea of government. As though laws being enacted by elected representatives are just so much more hassle. (Some are, some are intended to reduce hassle.)

    It’s part of our national class-consciousness. Nobody dares say, “my landlord is a jackass” or “my credit card company fucked me on a bill I was one day late paying,” because these things only happen to Poor People, and no-one wants to admit to the shame of being poor. Government is an acceptable target to vent on, because even rich people (the people we all should worship/emulate) bitch about government all the time.

    When people voice support for the anti-government rants of a Cruz/Paul/Walker, then, they’re not all saying “I hate Negroes/Mexicans” or “I love the Bible, don’t take away my Bible!” Many are, those are big demographics. Many are also just saying “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” And since we’re conditioned never to spit on rich people or rich companies, who else can you be mad at? Why, Government, naturally.

    It’s a huge failure of democracy. Even the good laws passed by good activist organizations rarely connect with average stressed-out voters. If people knew that they could advocate for particular policies and get them enacted, they’d be less susceptible to this Reagan-ish “government is the problem” nonsense.

    And then maybe go about the hard business of fixing the many actual things wrong with our government, instead of going after teachers, librarians, and park rangers.

    • There is no question that the worst bureaucracies are private ones. I have to deal with AT&T every month. But with the government, we get this problem where if a bureaucracy doesn’t work well, we starve it of resources so it is even worse. I don’t know how it is where you live, but the DMV here in California is very good. Yet people still make jokes about the DMV. Everyone complains about their phone companies, but no one calls for the elimination of the phone companies. Americans are shockingly immature.

      I had a conversation with my father recently. He heard Ted Cruz talk about abolishing the IRS and enacting a flat tax. It took Cruz all of 5 seconds to say that, and it took me a half hour to explain why it was all BS. The same people who are so cynical about the government, are as naive as can be when a snake oil salesman like Cruz comes along. Why is it that only rich people push the flat tax? Because it is fairer? Or because it will lower their taxes? Grow up people!

      And yes, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

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