James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Rick Perry’

More evidence that watching Fox News or NASCAR may make you dumber

Posted by James McPherson on November 22, 2011

When it comes to knowledge of world affairs, “no news is better than Fox News,” according to a study by researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Sadly, that’s old news. Even sadder, as columnist Kathleen Parker (once considered a conservative, though now even Ronald Reagan wouldn’t qualify) has pointed out, the relative ignorance common to heavy watchers of Fox News is driving today’s Republican Party. Or, as Paul Begala has termed it, “the Stupid Party.”

I hesitate to paint with a brush so broad, though I have previously noted some activities by conservatives that seemed at least unenlightened. But presumably these are some of the same folks who actually booed the First Lady over the weekend at a NASCAR race (an action that the voice of the GOP, Rush Limbaugh, actually defended).

Think for a minute–as much as some people hated George W. Bush, can you imagine any of those folks openly and proudly insulting Laura Bush? In fact, to find such boorish behavior toward a First Lady you have to go all the way back to … Hillary Clinton. The worst example? Another Democratic First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson.

And when people are working as hard as the current crop of GOP candidates to look stupid, it’s difficult to conclude otherwise. Perhaps it’s simply a Wall Street plot to get Obama re-elected, despite all the reasons he shouldn’t be. See a couple of the more humorous recent examples–or at least they would be funny, if these weren’t people seeking to lead the free world–below.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Back to the future: From Goldwater to Tea

Posted by James McPherson on September 14, 2011

Looking through drafts of blog posts that I never finished, I see that nearly two years ago, on Feb. 18, 2010, I started a post with the tentative title of, “Paleocons may hurt GOP in the short run, save it in the long run.”

My thought at the time was that Republicans were generating some nutty ideas–and some loony candidates such as Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell–but that the “grown-ups” would eventually regain control of the party and sanity would be restored.

Events since then have demonstrated otherwise, of course, with the recent debt ceiling debacle being merely the latest example. And whatever you may think of Barack Obama’s jobs bill, the fact is that if it was made up entirely of ideas created by Republicans, those Republicans would then feel obligated to spin on their round heels to then oppose what they had proposed.

In fact, the current situation may be a return to something much earlier in American political history–the rise of Barry Goldwater, about whom I wrote at some length in a book. I credit the failed Goldwater campaign with providing much of the impetus for a new conservatism. Goldwater’s campaign was doomed, but the energy of that campaign helped bring us Ronald Reagan and eventually the 1994 Republican Congress.

Likewise, Republicans may be working toward producing another sacrificial candidate in Rick Perry, shifting a party that would now too inflexible for Goldwater or Reagan even further to the right. Barack Obama may be the luckiest presidential candidate ever, getting to run twice against Republicans who can’t win despite Obama’s serious flaws.

It’s still early, and we’ll find out much more about Perry as his GOP competitors continue to bash him. But if Perry is the nominee and then loses to Obama, does anyone think those who have drunk the Perry tea are going anywhere, or that Obama will be any more successful in dealing with the next Congress than he has been in dealing with this one?

One key difference exists between the 1950s-60s rise of neoconservative and that of today. That earlier version was a party of ideas, highlighted by the genius of William F. Buckley and a host of thoughtful conservative publications. Unfortunately those publications have generally become as shallow and shrill as most of the rest of what now passes for rhetoric in America. And big ideas of the sort tossed around gleefully by Buckley can’t be examined via the likes of Twitter or Facebook.

Posted in History, Journalism, Personal, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

As tea boils over, Democrats could actually win by losing Senate & White House–but probably won’t

Posted by James McPherson on August 15, 2011

So, the Tea Party-Grover Norquist-Koch brothers “Axis of No Taxes” has managed to downgrade the country’s credit rating–though caring about Standard & Poor’s poor standards is as stupid as the whole phony debt ceiling “crisis” in which the “compromise” gave Republicans “98 percent of what we want.”

One result? Barack Obama’s approval ratings are the lowest ever, and talking heads are acting as if Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann might be our next president. If that were true, it might not be all bad, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment. But I think a Perry or Bachmann presidency is only slightly more likely than the possibility that PUMAs will push Hillary Clinton into a primary campaign against Obama.

For one thing, while Obama ratings are low, he still fares far better than Congress and everyone else involved in the debt ceiling debacle, and his numbers are pretty close to those of both Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan at the same point in their presidencies (and still higher than the low points for either of those two-term presidents).

Who else is down? In fact, the Tea Party is also at a new low, well below the president in popularity.

Despite that, Tea Party-esque candidates Bachmann and Perry seem to be gaining traction (though I don’t discount the fact that they’re just getting lots of attention because they’re entertaining). And in a crazy primary system in which extremist nuts can fare better than more reasoned candidates–but also boring, compromising, capable-of-actually-governing candidates–perhaps a Bachmann or Perry could win.

Maybe we’ll even see a Perry-Bachmann ticket. Though I’d prefer a PerryPalin “secession ticket,” assuming Palin isn’t busy running for John Kyl’s Senate seat. Or perhaps Perry and Bachmann will split the conservative evangelical vote, ultimately giving the GOP candidacy to serial flip-flopper but perceived moderate Mitt Romney.

I think Romney is the one Republican who might beat Obama, who probably doesn’t deserve to be re-elected but whose primary advantage seems to be the weakness of the GOP. But let’s assume Obama loses. Further, let’s assume that Republicans hold the House, and even win the Senate. Scary, huh?

Well, maybe not. In fact, such an outcome might be bad for the country–but maybe not, in the long run (and as a historian, I like looking at the long run). GOP control of Congress and the White House might even help Democrats in the long run.

Because even if the Republicans win EVERY open Senate seat, they still cannot gain the 60-seat majority that current Senate Republicans have shown us is necessary to get anything through the Senate. And if it can’t get through the Senate, we’ve found that the Republican House voted  doesn’t matter. And if a bill doesn’t get through the Senate, a Republican president can’t sign it.

Do you really think that seriously outnumbered Democrats are going to be more agreeable than slightly outnumbered Republicans have been? Or that Americans are going to understand in 2016 why the GOP couldn’t manage to do anything positive, despite controlling the White House and both houses of Congress?

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »