Recently, I took my local daily — the same local daily at which I toiled for 22 years — to task for, in Pat Moynihan’s deathless phrase, defining deviancy down among Republican political candidates. This is a theme I have written about numerous times, though usually with respect to national media, not local.
Now comes Paul Waldman at The Washington Post’s Plum Line blog to say that, hey, this is a thing:
… these judgments by reporters end up being self-fulfilling prophecies: if they decide that a “gaffe” is going to have serious political effects, they give it lots of attention, which creates serious political effects.
And in the last few years, there’s a baseline of crazy from the right that the press has simply come to expect and accept, so the latest conspiracy theorizing or far-out idea from a candidate no longer strikes them as exceptional. …
But during this cycle, Republican crazy just hasn’t broken through at all. It’s almost as if the national press has just come to accept as normal the degree to which the GOP has moved dramatically to the right. At this point so many prominent Republicans have said insane things that after a while they go by with barely a notice. This is an era when a prominent Republican governor who wants to be president can muse about the possibility that his state might secede from the union, when the most popular radio host in the country suggests that liberals like Barack Obama want Ebola to come to America to punish us for slavery, and when the President of the United States had to show his birth certificate to prove that he isn’t a foreigner.
So ideological extremism and insane conspiracy theories from the right have been normalized. Which means that when another Republican candidate says something deranged, as long as it doesn’t offend a key swing constituency, reporters don’t think it’s disqualifying. And so it isn’t.
It’s good to see one of America’s most influential news organizations taking note of this phenomenon. Except … well, I’ll let Driftglass spell it out:
Having written about this phenomenon literally thousands of times practically since the day I started blogging and having talked and thought and read about it since long before that, let me say that this “looking with alarm” recognition that the media routinely enables Conservative madness and depravity is so far too little and so far too late as to be darkly amusing.Yes, I appreciate Mr. Waldeman’s work in The American Prospect. And, yes, on one level I get a tiny, childish surge of satisfaction at seeing this in a Major Murrica Newspaper . But the sad upshot is this: in 2014, one person in one column has caught up to what Liberal bloggers have been writing about for over a decade and what pre-blogging Dirty Hippies have been screaming about all during the political metastasization of the Moral Majority…and death of the Fairness Doctrine…the rise of Hate Radio and Fox News…the relentless Right Wing conspiracies against the Clintons…the impeachment of Bill Clinton over trivia…and so forth.So it is indeed a fine thing to read “It’s almost as if the national press has just come to accept as normal the degree to which the GOP has moved dramatically to the right” in the Washington Post. But to read it in 2014 feels a lot like reading a headline asking “Is American Facing An Economic Depression?” in a major American newspaper … in 1938.So far too little and so far too late as to be bleakly hilarious.