Pachyderms in the Mist: Red America and the MSM

This is a blog for the majority of Americans.

Since the election of 1992, the extreme political left has fought a losing battle. Their views on the economy, marriage, abortion, guns, the death penalty, health care, welfare, taxes, and a dozen other major domestic policy issues have been exposed as unpopular, unmarketable and unquestioned losers at the ballot box.

Democrats who have won major elections since 1992 have, with very few exceptions, been the ones who distanced themselves from the shrieking denizens of their increasingly extreme base, soft-pedaled their positions on divisive issues and adopted the rhetoric and positions of the right -- pro-free market, pro-business, pro-faith, tough on crime and strongly in favor of family values.

Yet even in a climate where Republicans hold command of every branch of government, and advocate views shared by a majority of voters, the mainstream media continues to treat red state Americans as pachyderms in the mist - an alien and off-kilter group of suburbanite churchgoers about which little is known, and whose natural habitat is a discomforting place for even the most hardened reporter from the New York Times.

During the discussions about the launch of this new blog, the good folks at washingtonpost.com spent far too much time in sessions with markers and whiteboard, trying to settle on a name for the column. The suggestions were all over the map - but one suggestion provided a reminder of the sociopolitical divide in this country. "What about 'Red Dawn'?" said one helpful editor.

"Well, only if you want to make people think it was a gun blog," I said, to puzzled faces.

"Red Dawn? You must know it - the greatest pro-gun movie ever? I mean, they actually show the jackbooted communist thugs prying the guns from cold dead hands."

Any red-blooded American conservative, even those who hold a dim view of Patrick Swayze's acting "talent," knows a Red Dawn reference. For all the talk of left wing cultural political correctness, the right has such things, too (DO shop at Wal-Mart, DON'T buy gas from Citgo). But in the progressive halls of the mainstream media, such things prompt little or no recognition. For the MSM, Dan Rather is just another TV anchor, France is just another country and Red Dawn is just another cheesy throwaway Sunday afternoon movie.

While the mainstream media has been slow to recognize the growth in conservative America, smart Democrats have not. Former Virginia Governor Mark Warner and Hillary Clinton are not alone in recognizing that the unhinged elements of their base, motivated by partisan rage, Michael Moore conspiracies and a pronounced feeling of victimhood have dragged down the Democratic Party for far too long. It's a political anchor apotheosized by the founders of leftist websites Daily Kos and MyDD, whose recently published book on political strategy and the Internet (an odd publication when one considers that DKos endorsed candidates are 0-19 in elections) opens with the sentence "Five years ago, the Republicans took over the government through nondemocratic means." Smart Democrats read this kind of rhetoric and recognize that if they continue to be the party of Howard Dean, the floor may be nonexistent.

The reason there are political openings for these neo-triangulation strategies, however, is almost entirely the fault of Republican leadership. On issue after issue, Republicans have given in to the wisdom of the MSM and the beltway talking heads instead of listening to their constituents and the conservative political base. On the size of government, on immigration and on issues of federal power, Republicans have adopted the same Washington strategies that doomed the Democrats in the 1994 cycle, as this article yesterday illustrates. They've grown fat and happy on pork contracts, and forgotten why they were sent to this town in the first place.

Even President Bush is guilty of this - would a White House that put principle before patronization, listened to its base, and remained focused on election season ever make the gargantuan mistake of nominating Harriet Miers? Of course not - and smart Democrats are determined to use this split to their advantage.

Red America's citizens are the political majority. They're here to stay. It's time to start paying attention to what they believe and why.

By Ben Domenech |  March 21, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Email a Comment
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