Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Joan Walsh on Why the Media Can't Get Christie Right: "Need to Invent 'Moderates' to Keep from Writing Over and Over about the Party’s Departure from Political Sanity"

At Salon, Joan Walsh notes that the media have been complicit in creating an image Chris Christie as one of those mythic conservatives who occupy the mythic "center" so beloved of many in the mainstream media: 

I think there’s something else at work, something psychological, maybe, and harder to get at. I think the mainstream media and its dominant pundits are unable to take in exactly how far to the right the Republican Party has swung in the last decade, and so they need to invent "moderates" to keep from writing over and over about the party’s departure from political sanity. And when their moderates either show themselves as extremists, as Christie has repeatedly, or else as severely flawed politicians, as Christie has lately, those pundits either ignore it or rush to rescue them over and over.

And, then, of course, there's the need so spin Christie as a real man, as a guy's sort of guy, a meme that was on display (and in the making) this past weekend, as Steve Benen points out for Maddow Blog. Christie is an "old-fashioned" "muscular" "tough guy" who's being punished for refusing to fit into today's "feminized" political atmosphere, Fox's Brit Hume declared this weekend. As Joan Walsh notes, citing Alex Pareene, media types love them some mean and some tough, as long as the tough, mean political guys are beating up on the right sorts of people--especially the deadbeats who want to take from the rest of us through the welfare state.

It's going to be a long 2014, I suspect. We're going to hear more and more of this toxic rhetoric as a lead-up to the 2014 elections, in which, for the Republicans, everything hinges on being able to work up enough resentment against "entitlements" among working-class and middle-class white voters to keep the House and place the Senate in GOP hands. And in which everything hinges, too, on playing culture-war games (including ones revolving around gender roles and "real" masculinity and "real" femininity) to fuel the hostility to minority groups targeted as the suspicious, inimical, unworthy Other who are disrupting our American utopia by their very existence on the margins of that utopia . . . .

The graphic: the cover of Time Magazine for 20 November 2006--another midterm-election year.

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