Welcome to this week's edition of The Daily Banter Mailbag! Today, Bob, Ben and Chez discuss the Republican Party's future, social media's electoral influence and Karl Rove's doomed political career.
1) I know you've talked about this before but given the beating the Republicans took on Tuesday do you think ANYTHING will change in the GOP? Will they muzzle the crazies? Will they compromise? Will they stop locking themselves in an informational echo chamber? Or do you think everything will stay the same as in Obama's first term?
Ben: Hard to say given how fractured the party is. The problem for the Republicans is that a significant number of their core voters are batshit crazy racist homophobes who need to be thrown some red meat every once in a while. It's almost impossible for the GOP to win races without getting these people out to vote, making appealing to the center harder and harder to do. Also, the Republican Party has been almost 100% bought out by financial interests so it really doesn't operate as a political party any more. Change would require it to temper some of its core economic principles, and their corporate backers just won't stand for it. In short, they're pretty screwed so I think we'll see some serious infighting over the next few years until they sort it out. Or maybe they can't. Either way, it's good for the Democrats as they get to concentrate on running the country while the Republicans tear themselves to pieces.
Chez: The GOP got spanked a lot harder than I expected and it was surprising to hear many of them acknowledge right off the bat how they're basically facing a date with demographic destiny -- whether it was said as a form of conciliatory soul-searching or just to be a sullen prick, like O'Reilly. I think that at least for a bit they're probably going to be forced to compromise with Obama, but that period may not last long once the lunatic conspiracist rank and file stop whining and try to exert force again, to "take back their country" (despite it now being obvious that it's not their country to take back anymore). I think Obama's second term victory will infuriate the far-right even more than his first and I doubt they'll stay quiet about it. The question is whether the Republican establishment -- the people who actually want to win national elections at some point ever again -- will again cede the party to the dangerous idiots. I'm hoping not, but I'm not counting on it. The difference this time might be Obama himself not being willing to put up with that shit.
Bob: I don't think they'll change at all. They might dabble in some racial tokenism, but they're the party that fears change above all else and as such they'll never stray far from their marketing strategy. They'll simply augment their deception campaign in hopes of tricking more white people into voting against their economic best interests. Plus, they have a slight advantage insofar as there's only one Barack Obama and too many Democrats tend to be self-defeating and disorganized.
2) Do you think social media have (or will) fundamentally changed the way campaigns are run? Facebook offers a venue for quick, cheap bumper stick sloganeering (you know what I'm talking about), but it also gives an opportunity to address the issue immediately and directly. If a friend posted some garbage talking point about gas prices, the economy, or welfare drug tests, I could immediately fact check them with sources. Granted, it would rarely change that person's mind, but how many of that person's friends see the rebuttal? Do you think that this election will be the last time a campaign is run as cynically as Romney's because of social media changing the way we interact politically?
Bob: Social media is a significant tool for accountability and grassroots organizing. But it will only ever be a secondary means of winning elections.
Ben: Interesting question. I think Romney ran his campaign operating on the premise that it didn't really matter what he said, or whether he was fact checked or not. As long as people hear what they want to hear, they generally ignore the rest, and Romney hedged that the initial lie would be enough to do the damage. He was right to an extent as he did a heck of a lot better than he should have done. Social media is great because it allows fact checking, but advertising is still an incredibly powerful medium where the initial effect can negate any factual follow up. Look at what has happened to Julian Assange for example. He was accused of rape, and regardless of the facts, his reputation has been irreparably damaged. I don't know how truthful the accusations were against Assange, but it doesn't really matter any more. The image has stuck, and Assange isn't really taken seriously any more. Politicians will continue to chuck dirt at eachother regardless of how easy it is to get the truth out, and for one good reason: It works.
Chez: I think social media has made the world much more transparent, and that's something I've been saying for years now. It's a lot harder to get away with bullshit. That said, the flip side is that it's much easier to disseminate bullshit and have people believe it because there's a media outlet willing to cater to every single person's particular bias. I do, however, think that Romney went so far off the reservation with his lies that social media's easy access to information screwed him. I don't know, though -- I'd like to think that cynical politicians will learn their lesson but every time Jon Stewart plays a soundbite of a guy saying one thing, then quickly produces tape from two months ago of the same guy saying exactly the opposite, I really do think they still think we're all idiots and they can get away with bending reality to their will. And Jesus, that's tape. Old media.
3) How fucked is Karl Rove?
Chez: I wrote a piece for Banter not long ago that talked about how I really wasn't into schadenfreude -- that it's a trait of the bullying right to want to be able to not just defeat their political enemies but laugh in their faces. But I have to admit, after that truly mind-boggling display on Fox News on election night -- with Rove desperately, angrily trying to fight reality and demanding answers from the Fox numbers nerds who'd just burst his bubble -- I'm having a lot of fun at his expense. Rove's behavior was staggeringly undignified -- and it was fucking hilarious. He's not just a sore loser -- he's a guy who, like so many on that night, was honestly stunned to his core that all the bullshit he'd been dishing out and swallowing was wrong. Of course Rove spent around $300 million of other people's money during campaign in support of Republican candidates, particularly Romney, and got zilch for it. I like to believe that Rove's panic was because he knew Shelly Adelson's goons would be waiting outside to break both his legs. As for his future, I think his image is likely tainted pretty badly within the GOP. But then again, if Fox doesn't back away from him and his ranting -- and so far it hasn't, despite a still shellshocked Rove now complaining that Obama "suppressed votes" -- who knows?
Bob: Karl Rove orchestrated two presidential victories and lost one. To be fair, that's not a bad record. That said, the one loss cost a lot of wealthy people $300-400 million. If I were Rove I would make sure I had a solid security contingent otherwise I might wake up with a horse's head in my bed. Then again, Mitt Romney raised $880 million and lost. Upshot: Rove will be back, and so will his Crossroads GPS super PAC unless the president can pass an amendment that repeals Citizens United.
Ben: Karl Rove is pretty much finished as a credible political operative. He went through 300 million dollars of his friends money with his Super Pac and ended up with a landslide loss in the electoral college. Rove is a smart guy with a ton of connections, but this screw up was pretty epic. I can't imagine rich Republicans will be lining up to give him money after this, particularly as he was the one who rammed Romney down everyone's throat in the first place. Rove did his bit behind the scenes knocking off all the other GOP candidates in the primaries ensuring he would be the one to face off against Obama. He directed an extraordinary amount of money Romney's way, and the billionaires behind him expected to see a payoff from their investment. They believed in Rove's strategy and his predictions, and as a result, they lost it all. Not exactly a good sign for his future in the GOP.
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