On the right-wing “noise machine”, the treason of “conservative intellectuals”, etc.
With regard to the Manzi-Levin fight over at NRO.
First, it’s kinda funny seeing Levin lumped in with the proles, given that he’s a lawyer and was Ed Meese’s chief of staff.
Third, this gets me back to another article I’m sympathetic to, PJ O’Rourke’s “I Agree With Me“.
This is an argument I have with my father-in-law, an avid fan of such programs. Although again, I don’t actually argue, because I usually agree with my father-in-law. Also, he’s a retired FBI agent, and at seventy-eight is still a licensed private investigator with a concealed-weapon permit. But I say to him, “What do you get out of these shows? You already agree with everything they say.”
“They bring up some good points,” he says.
“That you’re going to use on whom? Do some of your retired-FBI-agent golf buddies feel shocked by the absence of WMDs in Iraq and want to give Saddam Hussein a mulligan and let him take his tee shot over?”
And he looks at me with an FBI-agent look, and I shut up. But the number and popularity of conservative talk shows have grown apace since the Reagan Administration. The effect, as best I can measure it, is nil. In 1988 George Bush won the presidency with 53.4 percent of the popular vote. In 2000 Bush’s arguably more conservative son won the presidency with a Supreme Court ruling.
A generation ago there wasn’t much conservatism on the airwaves. For the most part it was lonely Bill Buckley moderating Firing Line. But from 1964 to 1980 we went from Barry Goldwater’s defeat with 38.5 percent of the popular vote to Ronald Reagan’s victory with 50.8 percent of the popular vote. Perhaps there was something efficacious in Buckley’s—if he’ll pardon the word—moderation.
I tried watching The O’Reilly Factor. I tried watching Hannity shout about Colmes. I tried listening to conservative talk radio. But my frustration at concurrence would build, mounting from exasperation with like-mindedness to a fury of accord, and I’d hit the OFF button.
I’m not quite in PJ’s league. I enjoy Rush, and I enjoy his show when Steyn or Williams substitute in for him even more. But I hit a point of saturation at which I just shut the thing off, rather than listen to more arguments I tend to agree with.
Anyway, it’s no big deal. Life goes on, Limbaugh and Hannity make their millions, and we may or may not have a change in majority party in the Congress this November/next January.
Instant update: Stacy McCain has an interesting post on a related but slightly different topic — political true believers. (In fairness to the left-wing true believers — they probably would pick a different president as their “most successful”: FDR.)