Ed Driscoll

Backward Ran The Memes Until Reeled The Mind

Even before Martha Coakley’s campaign officially bit the dust last night, causing her supporters’ heads to explode, ala Scanners, there’s been no shortage recently of used rhetoric with some surprisingly high miles on the odometer coming from the left.

Setting aside the troll who mentioned “Diebold” — remember them? — in my post on Brown’s win yesterday, let’s run down some of the more prominent names, starting with Patrick “Marcia Coakley” Kennedy, who yesterday screeched:

Kennedy’s son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) said Democrats have to understand that they’ve entered a different era — and that they can’t just assume that voters will be with them.

“It’s like in Roman times, they’d be trotted out to the coliseum and the lions would be brought out,” Kennedy said Tuesday night. “I mean, they’re wanting blood and they’re not getting it so they want to protest.”

Kennedy’s red meat message for the base is very much a retread of Peter Jennings’ infamous “temper tantrum” from 1994. But then, Mark Steyn notes that this is just standard issue boilerplate whenever the left loses an election:

This is the laziest trope in the Democrat-media book. When the electorate repudiates the Republicans, as in 2008, they’re voting for hope and change and raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. But, when the electorate repudiates the Democrats, as they did last night, then they’re seething and vicious and lashing out and so irrational they can’t even calculate their own best interest, which is to keep voting for the guy with “D” after his name. When suburban Massachusetts is your idea of Bitter Clinger Central, you may want to rethink your analysis.

Good luck getting this font of Solomonic reasoning and cool, crisp tonalities to rethink anything.

Meanwhile, the Rhetorican spots plenty of shopworn rhetoric from Kevin Drum:

“Liberals can win elections, but they still have trouble winning the narrative. There are dozens of plausible explanations for this, but the noise machine still seems like the biggest one to me. There’s simply no liberal counterpart to Drudge and Fox and Rush.”

Which in this case, is a riff from about 2005. Or as Jonah Goldberg back then:

Liberals have been suffering from conservative envy for several years now. Oh, they don’t envy us our evil ways, our penchant for extreme cruelty or the fact that we smell like cabbage. They envy us our toys and success.

The liberal Center for American Progress was founded explicitly to be the Left’s answer to the conservative Heritage Foundation. The lefty radio network, “Air America,” was launched to copy the success of Rush Limbaugh & Co. Today, deep-pocketed liberals are scrambling to copy conservative foundations, even though liberal foundations have always had more money.

Most conservatives I know snicker at all this. It’s not that talk radio, think tanks, and foundations haven’t been essential to the rise of American conservatism in the last five decades. They have been (see my colleague John Miller’s excellent new book, A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America, for a window into that effort). But liberals are emphasizing hardware because they don’t want to question the validity of their very outdated software.

Look, conservatives would love to switch places with liberals. We’d get the universities, Hollywood, the Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie and Pew Foundations, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the New York Times, National Public Radio, Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, CBS, including 60 Minutes and Dan Rather’s thousand-fingers massage chair, and so forth. Liberals, meanwhile, would get the Washington Times and Fox News, along with a few conservative foundations. I guess National Review and The New Republic would switch offices, which is fine by me. It’d make my commute easier.

And that sort of makes the point: Not only does the Left have better stuff, but even if that weren’t the case, the Left’s problem isn’t a lack of mechanisms to “get their message out.” Megaphones matter, but not as much as what you say into them.

And that dovetails nicely into an essay from this past weekend, when Newsweek’s Howard Fineman moaned, “Roger Ailes is the real head of the GOP.”

But the media that supports the party out of power is always more powerful than the party itself during its period in the wilderness. Or as Peggy Noonan wrote in July of 2006, coincidentally, a few months before Democrats recaptured both houses of Congress:

The other day ABC News’s Internet political report, The Note, argued that President Bush, in his then-upcoming veto statement and other presentations, had better be at the top of his game if he wants his party to hold on to Congress in 2006. “[Mr. Bush] is going to need to be focused and impressive, not easy pickings for the Rich-Krugman-Dowd-Stewart axis.”As I read I nodded: That’s exactly true. What was significant is that The Note did not designate as Mr. Bush’s main and most effective foes Pelosi, Dodd, Reid, Biden, et al. Mr. Bush’s mightiest competitors are columnists and a comedian with a fake-news show.

This is one reason the media is important. (Not “are important.” Language evolves; usage changes; people vote with their tongues. It’s not the correct “return to normality”; it’s the incorrect “return to normalcy.” It’s not “the media are” it’s “the media is.” People see the media as one big thing.)

One big reason the media is important is that they change things. And they lead. On 9/11 itself it was the media–anchors, reporters, crews sent to the scene, analysts–that functioned, for roughly 10 hours, as the most visible leaders of the United States. The president was on a plane; the vice president was in the bunker and on the phone. It was on-air journalists who informed, created a seeming order, and reassured the public by their presence and personas and professionalism.

So they’re important. But very recently it seems to me they’re important because it is from the media that Mr. Bush’s most effective opposition–attacks on his nature and leadership, attacks on his policies–comes. Among the Democrats an op-ed columnist has more impact than a minority leader.

Fineman, and the rest of the newly hyperpartisan and opinion-dominated Newsweek (not to mention the advisors that President Obama keeps even closer at hand) are just bitter that the right has any megaphone at all.

And if their recent victories continue, someone on the far left is bound to dredge up Al Gore’s loony Frankfurt School-style “conservative media bias” trope from 2002.

Oh wait