Part The First – How We Choose Candidates
Part The Second – Electoral Math
Part The Third – The Trump Campaign
Part The Fourth – Trends in the Electorate
So far, if you’ve been following along, you’ve walked with me through several of the challenges conservatives face in the electoral arena:
- We demand the farthest right candidates we can get
- We have a huge swing state shortfall to overcome
- We don’t get candidates who can mount effective challenges in swing states
- Swing states and moderate voters decide elections
So it isn’t a huge leap to entertain the possibility that we’re doing some things, perhaps many things, wrong in pursuit of conservative policies. And let’s be clear: when I say ‘WE’ I do mean each of us on the right, inasmuch as we participate in the process, but I really emphatically mean the conservative leadership wherever we find them; Congress, the RNC, talk radio, FOX News commentators, think tanks, state and local party leadership, all of those places. You might have some affiliation for conservative ideas and not do much about it besides vote. That absolves you a little bit, but it also indicts you. Still, even if that’s your level of engagement, stay with me.
Let me ask: Do you typically get your news and information from right-leaning sources? Do you avoid the mainstream media because you believe it’s biased? When you see the discrepancy in coverage between two similar events, you know there’s some bias going on. But here’s the thing: those moderates we looked at in the last installment? They don’t know that the bias is there. In fact, they probably never even think about bias in media, and if the MSM doesn’t cover it, they don’t learn about it. As a conservative with alternative sources for news, you learn about things regular people never do. And regular people don’t go to typically conservative news sources because so few of them are aware of them:
A 2014 Pew Research study found that aside from FNC, most Americans had almost no interest in receiving news from media outlets that conservatives find trustworthy. In many cases, the public has not even heard of them.
Only 34 percent had heard of the Drudge Report. Just 15 percent had heard of Breitbart.com. Just 18 percent of Americans had heard of TheBlaze, the online news site owned by Glenn Beck. In contrast, 93 percent of Pew’s respondents had heard of Fox News Channel.
The lack of awareness of Right-leaning media is also true of conservative radio. Just 45 percent of respondents in the Pew study said they’d heard of Sean Hannity. 49 percent had heard of Glenn Beck. Rush Limbaugh was more famous with 66 percent of those surveyed saying they knew who he was. But in the vast middle of those with mixed political views, a full 45 percent had no idea who Limbaugh was.Being aware of Right-leaning media is one thing, actually using them as a source of news is quite another. The situation is even worse in this regard for conservatives as Pew reported since no single Right-leaning outlet aside from FNC was turned to in a given week by more than 9 percent of respondents. – Matthew Sheffield
So the result of this is that you know a bunch of things that normal people don’t know. And the MSM isn’t going to cooperate with you to get those things you know into the mainstream.
This, I think, is why conservatives who are aware of events like Benghazi and the way that Obamacare was passed are bumfuzzled that regular people don’t also know these things, and thus, might be inclined to think regular apolitical people – many of those moderates in the chart – are stupid or grossly uninformed.
Or worse, tell them outright they are stupid.
(HINT: They aren’t; they just have chosen different sources, if any, from which to get news, or they have decided that perhaps politics is too vast and complicated and nasty to keep track of anymore.)
And there is this to consider: since FOX has been covering Trump’s candidacy, they have simultaneously lost credibility both with Trump’s supporters AND his detractors. Thus the most popular news source for conservatives is trusted by fewer of its traditional audience.
But back to the moderates, the middle, the apolitical or uninformed people…
We are fairly sure from the chart in the last installment that they can be moved out of their moderate positions, or at least they can be swayed to vote with liberals or conservatives, even if they don’t like to align with them officially. And it’s pretty clear that that movement is far more often to the left than to the right. And given that the media has been nudging the country leftward, it’s not hard to see how that is happening. And it’s equally clear that conservative media isn’t pushing back effectively to nudge people more to the right.
Can we talk about those swayable moderates in the same way we talk about the people in mainstream media outlets who are producing left programming? Of course not. They aren’t at all the same thing.
But that’s what conservatives get so wrong, so often. They mistake the people they see who are just parroting left talking points for the willful and purposeful architects of left activism. I’ve already demonstrated how easily that regular, apolitical, moderate people are reached by left messaging in the media (and academia and Hollywood, for good measure – they all work together), and how hard it is for conservative sources to compete. What’s more, those architects are very good at crafting messages that wrap devastating policies in layers of good feeling and positive language, and vice versa. People without much ideological centering can pick those ideas and phrases up easily. That is how they are designed to work.
For example, welfare work requirements can help restore (as Arthur Brooks articulates so well) ‘the sanctification of work’, but the left attacks this as ‘eliminating the safety net’ or ‘tossing the poor into the street’. And conservatives often don’t even articulate the positives of transitioning people off of welfare – instead we get this hot mess. It’s good for a laugh and an elbow nudge among conservatives, yet it tells the poor that they aren’t assets that have the potential to be developed, but burdensome liabilities to be managed.
In light of all this, it’s probably a good idea for conservatives to rethink many of our strategies, and begin working to identify and focus our fire on the real enemy. Anything less – while it might be profitable for a radio personality or a blogger on the right – is a scattershot strategy; merely hoping to hit something, anything, instead of trying to win.
That’s unacceptable when the stakes are this high.
Come back for the next installment when we identify that real enemy.