PARALLELS…. Back from his awkward stint at the McCain campaign, Michael Goldfarb has returned to blogging at the Weekly Standard, and has an item today about the estimable Greg Sargent departing TPM after a couple of tremendous years.
Goldfarb takes a couple of predictable cheap shots and offers some odd criticism before getting to his point:
Still, for online partisan reporting, TPM set the bar pretty high this election. Republicans have no equivalent outlet. Any strategy to revive the party’s fortunes will require developing the kind of online infrastructure the Democrats now have in place, but you can’t do that without a bunch of right-wing Greg Sargents.
I’ve been seeing a lot of these observations lately. Conservatives want to know why they don’t have an analogous version of Huffington. And the Center for American Progress. And Media Matters. And MoveOn.org. And now, apparently, TPM. None other than Tom DeLay recently acknowledged how impressed he is with “liberal infrastructure,” which he believes now “dwarfs conservatism’s in size, scope, and sophistication,” and will be “setting and helping to impose the national agenda for the coming years.”
It wasn’t too terribly long ago that one of the most common concerns among progressives was the complete and total lack of an intellectual infrastructure. Now, however, there’s an abundance of conservatives running around saying, “Why can’t we have the kind of infrastructure the left has?”
Specifically in response to the TPM observations, Matt Yglesias had a very compelling response to Goldfarb.
The issue, though, isn’t that the right doesn’t have an outlet equivalent to TPM or other progressive sites. There are tons and tons of conservative media outlets, most of them with a web presence, and the web presences of places like Goldfarb’s Weekly Standard blog would be higher if they were breaking interesting news the way ThinkProgress, HuffingtonPost, TPM, Washington Independent, etc. do. What the right lacks are people with the skill to do the job.
The one time I can recall the conservosphere leading the charge on a legitimate story, the thing with Dan Rather and the national guard memos, they got tons of traffic and attention. And lord knows the conservative media has lots of money and plenty of staff. But almost none of that stuff is going to people who report competently. Instead, you get a lot of wild conspiracy theories and a lot of commentary. The progressive blogosphere involves plenty of commentary, of course, and relies a decent amount on reporting done by the non-ideological media. But the right, for all its loathing of the allegedly liberal MSM, is actually entirely dependent on it and the cable-Drudge nexus to advance stories. As Goldfard indicates, there’s just no independent capability. But it’s not a lack of outlets that’s the problem.
I think this can be applied even more broadly to the rest of the infrastructure discussion. The problem isn’t the disappearance of conservative parallel institutions, it’s that the institutions themselves simply aren’t doing impressive work. The left has the Center for American Progress; the right has the Heritage Foundation. One has been doing important research and shaping the policy discourse; the other is called the Heritage Foundation. The left has Media Matters; the right has the Media Research Center. One has had an important impact; the other is run by Brent Bozell.
There are institutions in place that can play a role in a “strategy to revive the party’s fortunes,” but that’s obviously not enough.