As the prospect of a government shutdown becomes more likely, it is important to keep in mind that as of last Wednesday, Trump had backed off his insistence that a spending measure to keep the government open include funding for his wall. The White House was suggesting that he would find “other funding” for his pet project. Based on that, the Senate passed a continuing resolution and most members headed home for the holidays.
It is being widely reported that, by Thursday morning, the president did an about-face because right wing media personalities like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh had accused him of “caving.” That’s what led to this comment from Senator Bob Corker (R-TN):
Sen. Bob Corker warns of “tyranny” on President Trump’s handling of shutdown and the events of the last 24 hours.
“Do we succumb to tyranny of radio talk show hosts?” Corker told us on Hill
“We have two talk radio hosts who influenced the president – that’s tyranny isn’t it?”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) December 21, 2018
While it’s true that for the last two years we’ve been witnessing a Fox News presidency, the “tyranny of radio talk show hosts” (and other right wing media personalities) is hardly a new phenomenon.
On the day that Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, Republican leadership hatched a plan to obstruct everything the president and Democrats attempted to do. That was a uniquely audacious move for a party out of power to make. In order to keep their supporters on board, the Republicans relied on right wing media to fan the flames of rage. That is what led former Bush speech-writer David Frum to write his incredibly prescient piece titled simply, “Waterloo” after the passage of Obamacare. What was true eight years ago is even more so today.
We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.
There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible…
I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters — but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination…If Republicans succeed — if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office — Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.
The truth is that right wing media preceded Donald Trump, helped him get elected, and will be around long after he’s gone. Since no one has proposed a credible solution to this scourge on our political discourse, the best I can offer is a little holiday humor about it all—with a not-too-subtle resemblance to “All in the Family.”
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