How living in its own echo chamber could doom the GOP at the ballot box this November – and beyond.
For the past two weeks, social conservatives and the Republican Party they dominate appear convinced that they can score electoral points on President Obama by rallying against birth control.
We’ve all heard the breathless back and forth on Fox News and AM radio over “Obama’s War on Religion” as the GOP joined with Catholic bishops to oppose a Federal policy on insurance payments for contraceptives that 28 states already require.
Why are Republican Party leaders picking a fight with President Obama over birth control — when the latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows that 65% of Americans support his position that insurance plans of religiously affiliated employers should cover the cost of birth control – including 64% of independents, 72% of women, and 67% of Catholics?
Why have Republican bigwigs signed on so loudly and stridently to such an unpopular position?
Ironically, the cause of this self-inflicted wound has been the right wing’s greatest success: the institutional and media infrastructure that helped to bring so many conservatives to power since the Reagan era — a vast echo chamber built over the past four decades.
According to Wikipedia, “An echo chamber is a hollow enclosure used to produce echoing sounds, usually for recording purposes.”
But the “echo chamber” I’m talking about is “any situation in which information, ideas or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission inside an ‘enclosed’ space.”
The extreme right wing takeover of the GOP can be traced to the founding of The Heritage Foundation in 1973. Paul Weyrich and Joseph Coors established The Heritage Foundation because they considered President Nixon too liberal. (Imagine that!) The Heritage Foundation was followed in 1977 by The Cato Institute, founded by Edward Crane and Charles Koch, CEO of the second largest private company in America. Together, these two conservative think tanks helped elect Ronald Reagan to the Presidency.
In the 1990’s Fox News Channel became another brick in the conservative echo chamber wall. To run Fox News, Rupert Murdoch hired Roger Ailes, a media consultant for GOP presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Fox News was launched in 1996 – and has become the dominant cable news network in the United States. This year, Fox News Channel is celebrating 10 years as the top cable news channel – its viewership topping that of MSNBC and CNN combined.
And then there’s conservative talk radio, which rules 90 percent of the political airwaves today.
Right wing gasbag Rush Limbaugh signed an 8-year, $400 million contract extension with Clear Channel in 2008. Twenty years earlier, his national radio career began on WABC in New York. Spouting – and often creating – a litany of right wing talking points, Limbaugh’s fame and influence grew throughout the 1990’s.
Today, Republican leaders fear Rush’s wrath – and fashion their policy positions accordingly.
If you listen to Fox News, AM talk radio and the pundits from conservative think tanks that populate the network and cable news shows and newspaper Op Ed pages, you’d have to believe that opposition to higher taxes on the very wealthy, denial of global warming, and opposition to same sex marriage, contraceptives and labor unions are supported by the majority of Americans.
In the huge echo chamber they’ve created, right wing pundits and politicos, armed with talking points supplied by facile propagandists like Frank Luntz (who for too many years managed to pass himself off as an impartial pollster, quizzing post-debate focus groups on CNN) have beaten the drum for extreme conservative positions while the American electorate has wised up, sized up – and moved to the left.
Trapped in their echo chamber, the GOP fights any tax increase on the wealthiest among us — while according to a January 2012 poll, a whopping 76 percent of Americans support “The Buffett Rule” which would require folks who make more than a million dollars a year to pay the same 30% tax rate that most middle class people pay.
In fact, a Yale/George Mason survey way back in May of 2011 found that 71% of Americans think global warming should be a priority for the President and Congress.
Of course, if you pay attention to the right wing echo chamber, there’s nothing more reprehensible than same sex marriage. If gay people are allowed to marry, than all heterosexual marriages are threatened – even Newt Gingrich’s three marriages. Yet a Washington Post-ABC News poll released this February 10th showed that 53% of Americans support gay marriage. That’s a clear majority in favor of Jack marrying Jack and Jill wedding Jill. And those numbers are only going to grow more in favor of same sex marriage, as intolerant dinosaurs die off and today’s far more open-minded youth come of age.
Buoyed by the conservative echo chamber, Republican Governors and legislatures in the Midwest have launched an attack on the labor unions that, for the past eight decades, have fought for worker’s rights and built the American middle class. Yet, despite continuous right wing attacks since Reagan busted PATCO (the air traffic controllers union) in 1980, a majority of Americans are still sticking with the unions. Even though public approval of labor unions is near its low, it’s still at 52%. (And that’s the national number. Don’t mess with the unions in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio.)
While the GOP echo chamber savages President Obama every damn day for indulging in “class warfare” – an increasing majority of Americans are waking up to the reality that the average Big Business CEO is raking in 350 times what the average worker in their company earns. In the right wing echo chamber such obscene income disparity makes sense. But according to an increasing majority of Americans, that’s unfair.
Romney. Santorum. Gingrich.
These three fatally flawed candidates are the gifts of the conservative echo chamber. Their flat-footed feet are nailed to a radical right wing floor.
I have a message for the GOP echo chamber.