By Kyle | September 20, 2012
Lefty writer Frank Rich last week came up with a surprisingly generous assessment of right-wing writers and broadcasters after spending a week “embedded” with conservative media outlets (what, all three or four of them?). Says Frank (whom I have not met, though he has mentioned me kindly in his column):
I was desperate for a jolt. [Glenn] Beck provided exactly that, in the form of comedy, and to my astonishment, I found myself laughing out loud—with him, not at him.
Beck is a great broadcaster (though obviously I don’t agree with everything he says) and if we’re going to let advertisers dictate that everything must be bland, our media will be the poorer for it. If he’s such a fringe loon, why was the Left so scared that they drove him off the air?
Anyway, I don’t tend to get commentary from TV or radio in the first place as broadcast personalities in general have to exaggerate and be bombastic in order to be entertaining. But I do try to learn from writers like those at National Review and Reason, and Rich shows surprising respect for these:
What did I learn in my week imbibing the current installment of the Reagan revolution? I came away with empathy for those in the right’s base, who are often sold out by the GOP Establishment, and admiration for a number of writers, particularly the youngish conservative commentators at sites like the American Conservative and National Review Online whose writing is as sharp as any on the left (and sometimes as unforgiving of Republican follies) but who are mostly unknown beyond their own ideological circles. What many of the right’s foot soldiers and pundits have in common is their keen awareness that they got a bum deal in Tampa, a convention that didn’t much represent either their fiercely held ideology or their contempt for the incumbent. They know, too, that their presidential candidate is the Republican counterpart to Al Gore—not only in robotic personality but in his cautious hesitance to give full voice to the message of his troops. Even Paul Ryan, the right’s No. 1 living hero, let many of his fans down with his convention speech—not because he fudged facts but because he soft-pedaled his “big ideas” about small government once in the national spotlight. Ryan left some conservatives wondering if the only thing they gained from having him on the ticket was his name on a lousy T-shirt.
It’s pretty rare for a liberal to acknowledge that conservatives are not necessarily stupid or evil, so let’s give Rich a bit of credit here for rising above most of his peers.
You don’t have to agree with these people’s politics to see they have a compelling beef. They are true believers in a minimalist American government. They see Obama’s economic record as a golden opportunity to throw him out. They helped propel Ryan, a dogged champion of conservative ideals, onto the national ticket. And they saw all of that jeopardized by a Republican National Committee and Romney campaign that muted and dumbed down the message in its tightly disciplined, highly scripted game plan to win over the tiny and elusive percentage of American voters who hold no strong views at all.
Well, yes, we’d like to see government be a bit minimalist — but we’d settle for seeing the fiscal trajectory restored to something like sanity before we turn into the United States of Athens. For this belief we are labeled “fringe” and “extreme.”