Two very good articles that appeared in the last few days take up themes I’ve addressed in past posts.
Crazy Republicans–Longtime readers may recall that I devoted several posts to trying to understand the radicalization of the Republican Party over the past few decades. One factor that I hardly touched on that deserved a lot more emphasis was the role of the right wing media (Fox, talk radio, Breitbart, etc.). Political scientist David Hopkins explains how rabid right-wing media have taken over from Republican officeholders as the agents of influence over an increasingly unhinged base:
The turmoil in Republican ranks is often described as pitting the party’s leadership class against an unruly popular “base.” But as scholars of public opinion often point out, few citizens develop strong political opinions or are mobilized to political action without influence from trusted authorities. What’s changed is whom voters are listening to: Unelected elite actors, especially conservative media figures, are gaining influence over the behavior of Republican voters while officeholders and candidates are losing it….Many Republicans cheered the emergence of the modern conservative media universe during the 1990s and early 2000s as a necessary counterweight to the perceived ideological bias of mainstream journalism. They may regret that support today. Over the past decade, it’s become clear the conservative media can be weaponized against Republican politicians even more easily than against Democrats, since most of its audience is far more likely to participate in a Republican primary than to consider voting Democratic in a general election.”
Center-right or Center Left?—This was the title of a post in which I argued against the common notion that the United States is a politically “center-right” country. An op-ed by Eric Levitz in yesterday’s NY Times serves as a good follow-up to that post, reinforcing my argument. Citing a 2016 study that found that 73.5% of voters espoused broadly left of center views on economic policy, Levitz concludes that as far as public opinion is concerned this country is more center–left than center right. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons that Levitz touches on, actual political and policy outcomes recently have skewed in the other direction.