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Are Republicans Living in a Cocoon?

Conservative writer David Frum, writing at NewMajority.com, bravely identified a core problem within today's conservative movement. I call his words brave because any sort of reality-based critical self-analysis is often met with scorn or charges of betrayal within the confines of the Right.

"Our party has been crippled by an all-pervading assumption at the center that if you just don't talk about bad news, it will go away: whether it's an extravagant wardrobe decision - or a bad job creation record. Our leaders cocoon themselves, refuse to hear unwelcome news, and reward yesmanship," Frum opined.

Frum's article touched on a critical point, but he didn't pursue it. That point is that the Right's refusal to hear unwelcome news and its yesmanship fetish lie at the core of the ridiculous idea that virtually all media outlets, with the exception of Right-friendly ones such as Fox News, are inherently liberal and biased against conservatives. When an objective news source reports a story that makes a conservative politician or some aspect of conservative policy look bad, conservatives have two basic choices: 1) review the bad news critically and make necessary adjustments to prevent recurrences of whatever fault; or 2) refuse to acknowledge whatever the failure and simply declare that because the media reported an event unfavorable to conservative ideology, the media is clearly biased against conservatism.

Sometimes issues such as this are adequately explained via sports analogies. In the National Football League's 2008 season the Detroit Lions lost every single game, earning themselves a record of 0-16. Any self-respecting football commentator would have no choice but to levy severe criticism on the entire Lions organization, from the ownership on down to the water-boys. The guys at ESPN don't have a bias against Detroit or the Lions as such, rather, the poor performance of the Lions can only be met with criticism by objective analysts.


Consider the following: When reports surfaced that Iraq didn't have the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that the Bush Administration had declared as imminent existential threats to America, it wasn't because the media hated Bush. That Bush looked ridiculous in the absence of a real WMD threat was a result of the Bush team not doing its homework. When the media reported on the federal government's lack of action in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it wasn't because they hated the Bush Administration. The Bush team looked incompetent because they were. When Katie Couric lobbed softball questions at Sarah Palin in an effort to get to know the would-be Vice President, it wasn't because Couric was a mean-hearted liberal reporter that Palin looked like a an idiot. It was because Palin's scatterbrained responses revealed her to be an idiot. In every case, the Right howled that the media was unfairly biased. The reality was that the Right had serious flaws with its abilities to govern responsibly. When people ensconce themselves in echo chambers such as the Right has built for itself via its network of cable channels, AM talk radio, and a plethora of websites, it becomes very hard to see things objectively.

And so, instead of being a political movement that can react quickly to an ever-changing landscape by constantly refining itself and thus remaining competitive in the marketplace of ideas, it simply demands of its followers strict adherence to its policies, whether they work or not. They have done themselves a tremendous disservice.

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