One of the chief complaints of the Netroots is, well, kind of historically ignorant.
It's the one about how the media is so unfair, so personally biased against them, so in-the-tank for The Right that even the "liberals" are right-wing jerks.
It's not that they're wrong. They're right. What's wrong is the belief this is something unique, or something that only happens to Democrats.
It doesn't. It's just in the nature of what I call dramas.
Forty years ago, and for decades before that, the shoe was on the other foot. Some highlights of that era:
All these media narratives, or dramas, from the New Deal era, were aimed at tarring major Republicans with what were, in the long run, irrelevancies. Those who complain about how Al Gore was transformed by the media in 2000 should look at what was done to Dewey. The Nixon "scandal" of 1952 was, on the whole, small beer. Adams, chief of staff to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was hounded out of office over the gift of a coat.
On both sides of the aisle, Gore as well as Dewey, what we see is the power of a dominant political thesis, a set of myths and values which affect how everyone looks at the world, but especially reporters, who are supposed to be plugged-in to "today." These are unconscious ticks, which make us all vulnerable to easy manipulation. They create dramas, because they are the filters used by reporters to create stories out of every day events.
During the New Deal era, moderate Republicans who leaned against the dominant Thesis were seen as weak, as wishy-washy. The only way Eisenhower broke through was because of Truman's incredible unpopularity and his own heroic record in World War II. During the Nixon Era, moderate Democrats who leaned against the dominant Thesis were seen in the same way. Thus Carter only squeaked-in due to the Nixon pardon, and Clinton won only because Perot was in the race and George H.W. Bush had made himself ferociously unpopular due to a recession, his own malapropisms, and his handling of the 1992 Watts riot. Remember, even after all that, 57% of voters voted against Clinton that year.
The power of political myth and values, of a political thesis, to bias us, often unconsciously, is enormous. That's why we had these anti-Democratic media narratives for decades, which worked to hold down Democratic voting strength.
Something very similar happened to movement conservatives in the 1960s as is happening to Netroots Democrats today. Remember how Barry Goldwater was called unhinged, and how that was reinforced through events like the famous Daisy ad?
Movement conservatives like Ronald Reagan were derided as crazy extremists until the Reagan Thesis was validated after 1980. At that point, the media's thought center shifted, so now Netroots Democrats who are, if anything, quite to the right of the Johnson Administration are called crazy extremists. They "got" Howard Dean the same way they "got" Barry Goldwater, for much the same reason, and when this new era becomes established we're likely to see Dean as being just as reasonable as Goldwater was seen in his later life.
It is enough to make anyone crazy and paranoid, especially if they have to live inside the Washington Bubble for decade-after-decade. It certainly drove
Nixon around the bend, and I have a great deal of concern it is doing the
same thing to Hillary Clinton.
But can you really fight the tides of history?