Why So Many Conservative Game Show Hosts?

Alex Trebek - Conservative Game Show HostsI was talking to Will the other day, and he mentioned that Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek was a conservative. I didn’t know that, but it didn’t surprise me. I’ve noticed a few things about him. One is that he seems to have no sense of the humiliation that players feel when they aren’t doing well. He clearly and (as the supposed neutral host) unfairly shows an eagerness to see the current champion win. And most of all, his sexism shines through. That’s particularly telling, because you would think that for the good of the show, more female winners would be good.

But I’ve noticed in the past that there really are a lot of conservative game show hosts, in as much as we can tell. The most obvious example is Pat Sajak, who is a far right climate change denier. I’ve often wondered why this is, so I went looking and came upon a reprint of an article written by Rebecca Dana back in 2010, Why Game-Show Hosts Vote Republican. It unfortunately doesn’t provide a lot of answers as to why there are so many conservative game show hosts. It’s probably because it is an obscure issue and there aren’t a bunch of experts on game shows, much less the political leanings of their hosts.

But she does discuss the matter with game show expert, Olaf Hoerschelmann. He provided two quotes that are worth thinking about:

  1. “To have the right sensibility to be a game-show host, you do have to have a belief in rugged individualism — either you make it or you’re not worth it.”
  2. “Generally the ideology of acquiring money and achieving fortune through luck goes along pretty well with a certain basic capitalist attitude.”

I think there is a lot to the first quote. In a world where nothing is clear — where it is all shades of grey — it probably is very attractive to conservatives to have something like a game where there is a clear winner. I, of course, hate this kind of thing. Even at my most fanatical as a chess player, it was never about winning — it was about the process, the creativity, and personal betterment. But for most chess players, winning is all that matters, which is why I didn’t really continue on in the game after I had reached a level where I thought I really understood it.

Hoerschelmann’s second quote is much more interesting. That’s the thing about most game shows: the prizes are not at all fairly distributed. If the top player on Jeopardy! ends with $15,000 and the next player ends with $14,999, that second player goes home with the standard second place prize: $2,000. Now, you could say that the winner is playing by the rules and would have bet more if the spoils were more evenly shared. Exactly! And if that were the case, Jeopardy! would be a more interesting game. Instead, “Final Jeopardy” is as likely as not to be non-competitive and boring. We might ask why the game is set up that way. And maybe it is as simple as the fact that it was created by Merv Griffin — another conservative.

My Ideas on Conservative Game Show Hosts

But I have another idea why there tend to be a lot of conservative game show hosts. It isn’t a job that takes much talent. That means, it is more likely to go to someone who is good at working the system — schmoozing with the executives. I have been watching Chuck Woolery since I was ten years old — over 40 years! And I see absolutely nothing that distinguishes him from just about every other game show host.

We can also just deconstruct it. Game show hosts are generally male and rich. Both of those select for conservatism. That doesn’t apply to actors, because that’s an actual creative activity that draws in liberal minded people. But men who are paid a lot of money to do things that aren’t hard: nine out of ten times, that man is going to be a conservative. And that means a lot of conservative game show hosts.

Paul Krugman: Protector of FOMC Independence, Destroyer of Bernie Sanders

Federal Reserve - FOMCOn Friday, Paul Krugman wrote, On Economic Stupidity. It’s nominally about the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) and its independence. The Republicans really have shown a desire to destroy it since a Democrat has been in the White House. But while his attack on Republican economic stupidity is to the point, it is perfunctory. Yes, we know the Republicans are really bad. But let’s not forget who the real enemy is: Bernie Sanders. You see, Sanders voted for a bill that would make the Federal Reserve reveal the beneficiaries of its “special lending.” Clinton didn’t do this, which is a Very Good Thing. Krugman really should just put up a Hillary Clinton 2016 sign on his lawn and be done with it.

Dean Baker sees things a bit differently, but then, he has yet to show himself in the can for one candidate or another. He wrote, Paul Krugman, Bernie Sanders, and the Fed. And he made two points. First, he questions Krugman’s assumption (Lots of Krugman unstated assumptions these days!) that what Sanders did was wrong, “To my view, Sanders should be applauded for his actions on this front. It was a bipartisan effort that gave us more information about what went on in the crisis and the extent to which specific banks benefited from access to the Fed’s money.”

The FOMC Is Political

The second point is more interesting. The FOMC is made up of 12 members: 7 appointed by the government and 5 effectively appointed by the big banks. Right now, because of Republican blocking, there are only 5 government appointees, so it is an even split with a 10 member board. So the banks have undue influence, and the Republicans are able to give them even more influence.

Krugman is falling into a trap that he has spotted many times in others over the years. He has written a great deal about how the great “centrist” pundits claim that they have no ideology, when in fact they very much do.

Baker suggests we think about putting together a more diverse group on the FOMC, which includes labor unions, community groups, nonprofits. This might make the Fed more focused on full employment rather than its laser focus on low inflation. True, that would make the Fed a more political institution, but anyone who claims that the Fed is not a political institution is either naive or ignorant.

But Krugman is falling into a trap that he has spotted many times in others over the years. He has written a great deal about how the great “centrist” pundits claim that they have no ideology, when in fact they very much do. I want to be clear: everyone has an ideology. All Krugman is saying here is that he agrees with leaving the system the way it is. And indeed, it has worked well for him. People in the upper parts of the economy have done very well by the Fed because it really has done a great job of keeping the economy stable.

But if you are in the lower part of the economy, you have seen the down side of that stability: difficulty finding work, and low and stagnant wages when you do. But even Krugman admits that the bankers have too much clout at the FOMC. In a blog post following up on his column, he makes the case that the real problem is that people who hang out together tend to think alike, and that the problem isn’t “crude corruption.” I agree. But somehow, Krugman seems to think this works in Clinton’s favor too.

I’ll admit, Sanders has done a bad job of explaining this. I certainly don’t think that Clinton was “bought” by Goldman Sachs. Rather, she is of a type. Would she be in favor of changing the makeup of the FOMC? I don’t think so. Does that matter? Well, Paul Krugman certainly doesn’t think so. But that may just be because he is so laser focused on the true enemy in 2016: Bernie Sanders.

Anniversary Post: Émile Henry’s Bourgeois Attack

Émile Henry's AttackOn this day in 1894, the anarchist Émile Henry threw a bomb into the Café Terminus, killing one and injuring 20 more. At his trial, he was asked why he killed so many innocent people. He apparently replied, “There are no innocent bourgeois.” I think that’s a fascinating answer.

I don’t believe in violence. It is one of those things that almost always seems like a good idea before, and a bad idea after. It really doesn’t matter what it is. People always grab onto World War II. But the reasons we have for justifying it were not the reasons we got into it. But I’ll grant that there are times when violence does some good. But it is so rare that it isn’t much worth thinking about.

But Émile Henry’s retort speaks to me. I don’t say that as an outsider but very much as an insider. Mostly, I don’t see myself as directly complicit in the evils of the world. But there is no doubt that the quality of my life is improved by the system of oppression. It isn’t something I wallow in, because it’s bad enough to benefit from it, but it’s worse for the world to be polluted by my polite guilt.

If I had real strength in my beliefs, I could go off to some remote place and become a subsistence farmer. But I freak out when a spider crawls on my desk. I’m not the kind of man who is capable of making bold gestures. Of course, we could say the same thing of Émile Henry. He was born into an upper class (albeit a radical) household. It’s a curious way to deal with your own privilege: by killing others in your class. It strikes me as a selfish act. If he were alive today, Émile Henry would probably be a libertarian and claim to be freeing the poor by cutting the taxes on the rich.