American Conservatism and Pundit Culture: The mouth has taken over; it tells the brain what to do.

Note: There are two occurrences of profanity in this piece, which might somehow offend some readers more than anything Ann Coulter has ever said.

The outcomes of last week’s election were less about affirmation of President Obama’s vision, the size of government, and/or the rights of gay people and pot-smokers than they were about a collective rejection of the monster that American “conservatism” has become. Large swaths of the GOP had so aggressively bought into its obstructionist and backward thinking patchwork-ideology that it collapsed underneath its every ugly aspiration, false promise, slur and rhetorical misstep. They were crushed under the weight of their own bullshit.

Just how American conservatism got to this point can be attributed to a number of factors (corporate money, of course, but that flows in all directions, doesn’t it?), though I cannot help but to look at the right wing Pundit Industrial Complex as one of the more substantial contributors to said fall from grace. The pundit feeds on the anxieties of listeners, viewers and constituencies; grows an audience; sells ad space; says provocative things to perpetuate audience growth; sells even more ad space; says stupid things to perpetuate audience growth; sells even more ad space; says hateful things to perpetuate audience growth; sells the most ad space; and forever and ever, amen. In order to attract the approval of the pundits and their voting audiences, politicians assume equally provocative/stupid/hateful positions, and the party’s beliefs are suddenly constructed by the sum of panderers pandering to even-more dramatic panderers. The ideological rhetoric machine has come to influence the party, and not the other way around. The mouth has taken over; it tells the brain what to do.

More troubling is that the position of the loud-mouthed pied piper is one that some passionate young people brimming with potential continue to aspire to. Money follows the loudest, most outrageous and attention-grabbing voices and up-and-coming, passionate opportunist chameleons are lining up for their future paychecks. I was once in a position where I had to participate in a point-counterpoint exchange against a young conservative (slash openly-aspiring pundit) about where we disagreed on particular issues, and we had to decide upon a topic to debate. Since the other party was conservative and I leaned left, I figured we could easily dig into our views on economics. Oh no, I don’t know anything about economics, I was told without any self-awareness of the absurdity of this statement coming from a self-identified conservative voice, so let’s do something else. They addressed the political affiliations of celebrities, pro-Obama movies, and poor people who abuse food stamp benefits. But who could blame my opponent? What substantial audience eager to have their anxieties stoked wants to hear about boring, insignificant issues like economics discussed in a meaningful way, anyhow?

From the perspective of a leftist, I find this shift particularly troubling. I want for this country to discuss meaningfully civil rights and liberties, the size of government, money in politics, immigration reform, the drone war and a number of other pressing issues, but as long as the right continues to posture in this way, this debate isn’t going to happen and the Democrats will continue to win by being the least crazy party rather than purveyors of exceptional thought and policy. There will be no time for deliberation, consideration of the abstract, and consideration of the ideas of third parties while everyone is preoccupied by obstructing the crazy.

Should the GOP care to remain relevant, young, thoughtful conservative voices must rise up through the noise, go up against the Complex and assert themselves into the narrative before it’s too late. It must be remembered, however, that while eulogies are being written for this spectacular, campy interpretation of conservatism in the wake of this crushing defeat, anyone who came out of the Bush years thinking there was no way in Hell Neoconservatism could survive as a political philosophy knows better than to engage in premature celebration. Aspiring pundits will continue to aspire to be Coulter and Trump, no matter how despicable they present themselves to be, because that’s where the money is.

Note [Nov. 15th, 8:54 am]: Tangentially related to how unlikely it is that change is on the horizon, Gov. Haley Barbour has suggested that it was President Obama’s advertisements, which portrayed Mitt Romney as an out-of-touch, aloof rich person, that were responsible for Romney’s defeat, not the fact that Mitt Romney was an out of touch, aloof rich person. Or that pretty much no one in the party liked him before getting behind him upon deciding that he could probably win. Also, all of that GOP rape talk wasn’t particularly helpful.

And Gov. Bobby Jindal suggested that there are calls for the party to “abandon its principals.” Again, no. Just maybe don’t hate on Hispanics so intensely (See: Marco “It’s very hard to make the economic argument to people who think you want to deport their grandmother” Rubio), and cut the shit with all of that rape talk.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.