At Long Last …

After yesterday’s drama I’m ready to relax a bit and enjoy pared-down Thanksgiving week without feeling weighed down by impending doom. Trump isn’t gone — yet — but he’s definitely going. The turkey pardon is this afternoon; we’ll see if Trump shows up. That will make three turkeys looking for pardons.

A development that could end up being beneficial in the long run is that Trump culties are stampeding away from Fox News and big-time social media such as Facebook and Twitter. We might worry that they’ll now all be marinating in an even more insulated crazy sauce, and in the short run that could lead to problems. But in the long run I think this will amount to an act of self-marginalization.

This is coming about because the “mainstream” far-right media finally is moving away from Trump. Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and even Rush Limbaugh are admitting Biden won the election — maybe not fairly — and that Trump’s efforts to prove fraud are failing. The True Believers are shifting to Newsmax and One America News (OAN), with Parler for their social media fix. There are reports that Fox News’s approval ratings among conservatives have dropped, although Fox’s ratings haven’t suffered as much as some have claimed.

Newsmax and OAN have stuck with Trump and are keeping the hope of a second Trump term alive for the faithful. This has been a great ratings boost for them. It’s also dragging a lot of people into an alternative universe, further dividing the nation, and potentially setting us up for more right-wing violence. But the ratings!

So why isn’t Fox News doing the same? Because it has a different purpose.  Rupert Murdoch didn’t set up a media empire just to make money or to raise an army of zombies, although those were solid side effects. He wanted influence. He wanted to push government and mass media to the right. And you don’t maintain influence by staying on The Titanic once it hits the iceberg.

Paul Waldman wrote,

It wasn’t just to inflame their own audiences, it was a political project aimed at “working the refs” — keeping journalists under pressure to alter what they reported and how they reported on it to make the news more friendly to the right.

While it’s an unending battle, working the refs works. Conservatives are very good at raising a stink, and news organizations often respond by changing their coverage. But it only works if those in the mainstream are aware of what’s being said on the right. You can’t pressure someone who is barely aware you exist.

Which is part of the power of Fox News: It’s watched by most Republicans in official Washington, and what happens there is injected into the mainstream conversation. The same congressman who watches Fox News in his office later goes on ABC News and repeats what he heard.

Just to be clear, there are plenty of ludicrous lies and insane conspiracy theories that Fox News spews out on a daily basis. But it remains tethered to, and in conversation with, the mainstream. That’s where its power comes from.

Could Newsmax or One America News do the same thing? It’s theoretically possible, but right now they’re still rinky-dink operations with zero credibility. The only time just about any real journalist pays attention to what goes on at either outlet is to watch a clip shared on social media and say, “My god, look at how crazy this is.”

This is a pattern of prior nativist or other right-wing movements in the U.S. They may gain genuine power for a while, but they last only as long as they are useful to the establishment. Often they self-destruct from excessive fanaticism or lose support because of changing economic or social conditions. You see the same pattern with the Know-Nothings, the 1920s Klan, and Joe McCarthy.

McCarthy was the most powerful man in America for a time; nobody dared cross him. Even President Eisenhower, who seriously hated McCarthy, held his tongue for a time. And then McCarthy imploded, and his fellow Republicans cut him loose. McCarthyism lingered for a while, in part because the fears that fueled it didn’t die, but it lost much influence. By the 1960s mainstream political culture was opening up to more liberal views. I strongly suspect Trump — who shares a connection with McCarthy through Roy Cohn — is about to go down a similar road.

And then the extremists retreat to the fringe for a decade or two, and when the movement emerges later it will be under a new name and with new leadership and talking points. But for a while the nation gets a reprieve. It’s a cycle. We may be near the end of a cycle. I sincerly hope we are.

Joe McCarthy and Donald Trump. New York Times photos.



6 thoughts on “At Long Last …

  1. I think we at least get a reprieve, in much the way that we did when Obama won. With the Orange Baby sidelined we can at least forget about politics for awhile. If we can win the Senate via Georgia, this will certainly help. If the Rs can stifle the Q Anons among them, that also will help.

    I'm not optimistic about this being the end of a cycle. Biden has a weak hand – thin margin in the House at best, plus there is so much damage to contend with. He will be remembered for ending COVID (which had nothing to do with him, although he at least doesn't deny it's real; he'll at least promote practices to distribute the vaccine efficiently and fairly). I expect a glow in the country to rise in 2021 as the country and world finally gets past the virus, and life starts to return to normal. Winter will be hell, a purification.

    AOC is right: If the lives of average people don't improve, the Rs will bring on another authoritarian in 2024. I expect alternation between the two parties – which has been going on for some time now in the US – and which was pointed out to me in Australia. I'm sure this is the pattern for a lot of countries. And so given all of the above, I expect at best a reprieve, but hell come 2024.

    I remember telling a friend toward the end of Obama's reign: this is the end of summer. Enjoy it while it lasts. Biden's summer – if that's what it is – is about to begin.

  2. I laughed when I saw this. The door is wide open on Parler, and they’ve been hacked. Why am I not surprised that it’s an amateurish operation from the start?

  3. I hope you're correct, maha!

    This nation does tend to have Liberal v. Conservative cycles of dominance.  But I suppose that's probably true in most democratic nations.  FSM know Britain does.  So do Canada, France, and Australia – among others.

    After decades of the conservative Gilded Age, we had almost 40 years of liberal dominance:  From FDR to Nixon.  The 70's were a strange era – I know, because those were my teen and college years.  It was Reagan who brought in a 40 year conservative cycle, at which, we hope, we are at the ugly end of:  An American mini "fin de siecle.*"

    Biden is the old conservative liberal, who's bringing in the people who will begin the new, more progressive era

    If you saw the debut today of his cabinet positions, it was nice not see what we've seen for the last 4 years: A collection of sycophantic, sociopathic misfits, who would be considered "too far out there" to be included in "Star War's" bar scene!

    We saw competent, intelligent people, whose mission is to revive America, first, and then work to umprove the lot of our country and its people.


    I can't go on…

    I'm all verklempt… ;'-)



    *Yes, I know that traditionally that term is used as one century finishes, and another one is born.  But the term literally means, "the end of a cycle," so I feel it fits.

  4. I have a question. How do independent voters feel about the post-election Trump show? According to early exit polls, the Red v Blue turnout was nearly equal (37% D  v 36% R) They voted  94% for their candidates. So it was a wash (nearly) in turnout and votes. Independents split 13% for Biden and they were 25% of the turnout. Here's the clue that independents were the key faction in the outcome. Biden won decisively but the Democrats lost seats in the House. (Divided government is in the DNA of independent voters.)

    OK. That was November 3. Since then the focus has been on the attempted coup and the reactions of both sides. (Only 3% of Republicans think the election was legit. – 75% think Biden won by fraud.) I haven't seen poll numbers on how the show has played with independents. I suspect many have had their distrust of Trump confirmed and others who believe in a dignified transition of power were disgusted. 

    Trump's three favorite things are: getting rich, getting even, and being in the spotlight. Pretending a run in 2024 feeds all three. Also, Don Jr. Ivanka, and Jared have figured out the political grift is far more lucrative than real estate. Three-quarters of the Republican party are rubes, ripe for the picking if the Trump family can keep them on the hook. 

    The RNC has some pros who read polls. If Trump continues to pitch exclusively to the most racist and homophobic elements, the independent voter will continue to be repulsed. Trump has little to no chance of a return to power if he won't change his message. And he won't. The rubes will only cough up money if Trump delivers raw meat. 

    Some of the Trump kooks will become violent. (How many and how bloody, no one knows.) Bloodshed will not go over well with independent voters. Trump may be fairly open inciting it. Again, who knows but the GOP will have to distance themselves from Trump to run any of the candidates they have been grooming if violence against protesters is the message. I think in very early 2022, the GOP will try to gently disassociate with Trumpism and take the voters back into the GOP tent. This will cut into Trump's grift and he'll respond with a revolution, potentially a new party. (He may have his own TV presence to 'get even' with Fox.) 

    In the very short term, McConnell will want Trump campaigning in Georgia in mid-December for the GOP and for control of the Senate. Trump lost and only his hurt feelings matter. Always transactional, Trump will demand control of the RNC and full GOP Senate support for the claim Trump was robbed.  And McConnell will cave and give all to Trump because McConnell can spend a year undermining Trump and throw Trump overboard in late 2021 in a bid to make headway in the 2022 elections (especially if the Senate is in Democratic control.) 

    Thanksgiving may be the super-spreader event of the century. We'll find out. If it is, the vaccine won't be online in great quantity. I pray this won't be the blackest Christmas in my lifetime but nearly 40% of the country says they will disregard warnings (but they will wash their hands a lot.) Biden could take office with the medical system overwhelmed in the rust belt and Dakotas. Biden has two months to select people and plan – if he responds well and generously in red states it might be the foundation of a firewall the GOP won't be able to break in my lifetime. If Trump starts a civil war within the Republican party for control….be still my heart.

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