A recent article in Salon starts with a headline that says it all: “Sean Hannity is killing the GOP: Fox News & conservative media have the party in a stranglehold“. At one point the Republicans might have thought Fox News was on their side, but one has to wonder what the GOP is thinking now that Hannity is cheerleading for Donald Trump. He even says that the other Republican candidates should learn from Trump.
But the problem goes deeper than that. The Salon article points out that despite taking over both chambers of Congress, Republicans really haven’t gotten anything done. The GOP is still fighting lost battles, like trying to defund Obamacare and fighting against same sex marriage. I’m not sure I can even say what the Republican agenda is, let alone point to any things they have accomplished on it.
And what would they do if they did get their way? Even Republicans acknowledge that if they somehow managed to repeal Obamacare, it would be a disaster for their party. Heck, they were even secretly hoping the Supreme Court wouldn’t rule against it.
Instead we see the following scenario repeated way too often:
The dysfunction typically follows a familiar pattern: the GOP leadership in one or both Houses tries to follow through on some basic task – funding government agencies, for example – but runs into opposition from conservatives. The leadership tries to accommodate the right, but finds that the right’s demands are unreasonable and inflexible. The whole legislative process derails, and then the Democratic minority steps in to save the Republicans from themselves.
Is that any way to run a party, let alone a country?
But there may not be much the GOP can do. A paper out of Harvard points out that the Republicans, who promised in the 2014 midterm elections that they would show the nation how well they could govern, if only voters would put them completely in charge of Congress. Well, the voters did, and the result was humiliation after humiliation. Republican Congressman summed up the first three weeks, before the honeymoon was even over:
Week one, we had a speaker election that did not go as well as a lot of us would have liked. Week two, we got into a big fight over deporting children, something that a lot of us didn’t want to have a discussion about. Week three, we are now talking about rape and incest and reportable rapes and incest for minors. I just can’t wait for week four.
The following weeks only got worse. The GOP staged a showdown against Obama over immigration policy, insanely vowing to withhold money for homeland security (as terrorist acts filled the news) unless Obama reversed his executive decision and deported millions of people who were brought to the US illegally as children.
The fight completely backfired. (But that hasn’t stopped Trump from still fighting it, with his “rapists” remark against immigrants.)
It is clear that the GOP is out of control. So who is in control?
As many of them concede, it is conservative media – not just talk-show celebrities Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham, but also lesser-known talkers like Steve Deace, and an expanding web of “news” sites and social media outlets with financial and ideological alliances with far-right anti-government, anti-establishment groups like Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth and FreedomWorks. Once allied with but now increasingly hostile to the Republican hierarchy, conservative media is shaping the party’s agenda in ways that are impeding Republicans’ ability to govern and to win presidential elections.
According to another Republican staffer:
It’s so easy these days to go out there and become an Internet celebrity by saying some things, and who cares if it’s true or makes any sense. It’s a new frontier: How far to the right can you get? And there’s no incentive to ever really bother with reality.
It is too easy to play on people’s fears and make money off it. And according to former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott “If you stray the slightest from the far right, you get hit by the conservative media.”
Is there any way the Republicans can break out of this vicious cycle?