Responding to David Brooks
Yesterday, David Brooks wrote a very interesting column?regarding the real political effectiveness of conservative talk radio. Brooks missed three points, however, in his analysis. I spell them out below.?
First, Brooks says this: ?Over the past few years the talk jocks have demonstrated their real-world weakness time and again. Back in 2006, they threatened to build a new majority on anti-immigration fervor. Republicans like J.D. Hayworth and Randy Graf, both of Arizona, built their House election campaigns under that banner. But these two didn?t march to glory. Both lost their campaigns.? However, in 2007, talk radio got a resounding victory in shutting down the immigration reform bill then-President Bush, then-Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator McCain (R-AZ) famously tried to pass. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi?(D-CA), the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Usnews.com, Senator Feinstein (D-CA),?the Seattle Times, HotAir.com & Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Al), The Heritage Foundation, and then-senator Trent Lott (R-MS), to name but a few sources, all blame talk radio for the defeat. Note there are several influential politicians in this group, and not just Republicans, somewhat opposed to the following statement in Brooks? column: ??I have asked many politicians what happens when Limbaugh and his colleagues attack?Hundreds of calls come in. The receptionists are miserable. But the numbers back home do not move?In the media world, he is a giant. In the real world, he?s not.? Yes, all of the?above have reasons to pick talk radio as a target of comment (Pelosi was in all likelihood trying to paint opposition as unintelligent, etc.), but these are just a few of the many sources boosting the claim that talk radio helped shut down the immigration reform bill.
Secondly, Brooks says, ?Yet somehow, despite the fervor of the great microphone giants, the Thompson campaign flops like a fish.? As a former fan of Thompson?s presidency?the former senator did himself in. I had barely heard of the guy until Spring 2007, when a variety of conservatives I knew- some in the military, some in the media, still others students at my university- began clamoring for him to run. I looked him up, and found myself quite impressed. By June 2007 I became a supporter, and was one of many who found his delayed announcement of a campaign to be brilliantly played.
?Unfortunately, my support for Thompson became strained as his delay became annoying, then irritating and then finally disrespectful. I was at the University of New Hampshire ?First in the Fall? primary debate, and was wondering if Thompson was going to show up to the debate or to Jay Leno?s show, as was rumored. Unfortunately for his campaign, Thompson went on Jay Leno?s show.?As a New Hampshire citizen until earlier this year, candidates for office who showboat as opposed to show up rank very low in my book. New Hampshireites are big on meeting people face-to-face in grassroots circumstances. (For example, without trying too hard I met or asked questions to the following Presidential candidates as a New Hampshire college student: President Obama; Secretary Clinton; Senator McCain; Representatives Paul, Tancredo, Hunter and Kucinich; and former Senator Edwards.) I think many people across America feel the same way.
?The death knell for Thompson?s campaign was his increasingly appearance of not caring. He was reported as saying, ?”I’m not sure in the world we live in today it’s a terribly good thing that a president has too much fire in his belly.”? Were this Thompson?s only transgression of this type, the rest of his comments in that speech would have gotten more attention, such as the one about serving the country. However, it was not. One example of this was when, in the second-to-last debate before the New Hampshire primary (Ron Paul fans will remember it as the one Fox News did not let Representative Paul appear in the debate), Thompson appeared to fall asleep. Watching it with my aunt?I actually thought he did. His remarks, when he was awake, were brilliant. However, you can?t fall asleep and expect to win. Even talk radio can?t overcome a bad campaign and bad campaign strategy.
?Lastly, Brooks talks about Romney?s failure to win the Republican primary despite talk radio?s fervent support for his candidacy. As NRO?s Ramesh Ponnuru said on ?The Corner? yesterday, many of the talk radio people entered the ?Go Romney? camp late. (Quotes mine.) According to HotAir.com, Limbaugh essentially endorsed Romney on February 5, 2008, after the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucus, on Super Tuesday. Sorry, Mr. Brooks; a same-day endorsement isn?t the same as supporting Romney for months. Most conservatives had made their mind up by that point. Even Ann Coulter (that bastion of intellectual conservatism) admitted she came out for Romney too late.
Brooks does have some great points- even combining all the top conservative talk radio hosts, they are only getting a few dozen million listeners, tops (that assumed little-to-no overlap of fans), which is a fraction of the country but a goodly percent of the voting-age Republican population (we can debate how many of those people actually vote another time, though Brooks claims political offices say that?there is no impact on polls or?changing public support due to talk radio). Secondly, Limbaugh’s Clinton strategy (against then-candidate Obama)?failed miserably, as Brooks states; however, I doubt I am the only one who was never certain if Limbaugh was being serious or facetious. Lastly, his point about going outside of the ?niche-building? of talk radio is extraordinarily poignant- after all, talk radio hosts and politicians generally have the same goal (the betterment of the country) but VERY different tactics in which to succeed, given the differences in chosen platforms.
?The fact, though, is that in the matters of day-to-day politics, Glenn Beck was largely responsible for the resignation of once-czar Anthony ?Van? Jones, and?popularized the 9/12 Project. While numbers are uncertain, with the Washington Post and New York Times claiming anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands and, as Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) said at the Americans for Prosperity ?Defending the American Dream? Summit, which I attended, Fox News said there were ?a billion.? (Pence claims to have seen a million attendees.) Whatever one may think of Beck, Limbaugh, Savage, Ingraham and the rest, they have a massive amount of influence on activism and politics in America. To dismiss them as Brooks does is to miss both the positive and negative effects they have on the political process through the millions of listeners who follow them.