Sensible Cowards

Atrios (who it's good to have back blogging in force) points out something that can't be repeated enough. With regard to the new faux moderate pundits on the right he says:

...pretending to support Kerry while doing little but bashing him, or supporting Kerry with the caveat that "we may all die if he's elected!!!" is mostly a way of preserving your street cred on both sides...

We know this because we've lived it. It's not nearly as prevalent this year as it has been before, but for years there was a veritable cottage industry out there of "liberal" writers who made an excellent living disparaging Democrats and often voting (with crocodile tears in their eyes) for Bush Sr., Dole and Junior. And there were many more who found it very convenient to jump on the conservative bandwagon whenever the DC zeitgeist went in that direction.This, as much as anything else, is what legitimized the modern GOP's scorched earth tactics. And, more than anything else it legitimized the presidency of George W. Bush. For instance, the liberal Richard Cohen, who saw where the wind was blowing back in November 2000 and wrote:

Given the present bitterness, given the angry irresponsible charges being hurled by both camps, the nation will be in dire need of a conciliator, a likable guy who will make things better and not worse. That man is not Al Gore. That man is George W. Bush."

I believe that it is that type of "sensible" punditry on the left that has validated for many the Republican propaganda that Democrats are weak and easily led. Here you have one of the leading voices of the left who consistently gets rolled by Republicans and then comes up rubbing his head months or years later asking "whuh happened?"

One of the perverse advantages of tagging the media in general as liberal, when they are actually easily duped by right wing spin, is that people consequently lose more respect for liberals than conservatives when that right wing spin is exposed. People expect politicians to be slimy. Journalism is supposed to expose it and when it doesn't people feel betrayed by the institution that let them down --- the media. Which they subconsciously associate with the word "liberal."

As Atrios pointed out in an earlier post, when Richard Cohen laments the lack of "leadership" that led him to agitate for the Iraq war, he seems to have no idea that he is one of the leaders. Indeed, to much of the country, with no single political voice to turn to, these writers became the most important voices of the left. It is another reason why it's so frustrating to see people discounting the real courage that it takes to throw yourself into the right wing meat grinder as a Democratic politician when it's the liberal pundits who ostensibly speak for them who are the cowards. They never had to face any angry, misinformed voters, they never had to have their lives laid open and picked over by the likes of David Bossie and Barbara Comstock. They didn't have to deal with Tom DeLay and James Inhofe or smile for 14 hours a day trying to raise enough money to compete with some multi-million dollar corporation in a suit. The worst thing that happens to them is that somebody calls them "shrill." And yet from their cushy perches atop the political hierarchy, they crumble like little old ladies at the first sign of GOP intimidation and eagerly adopt the "sensible" path that says these bullies should be given what they want.

Jon Stewart said it well in his show last night in which he admonished people not to listen to the pundits and the spinners (or even himself) but to make up their own minds. It's difficult to do. And, in a better world we'd be able to employ these well-connected writers to demystify the process and help us get to the truth. But, the reality is that many of them are actually participants, either knowingly or as useful idiots, and there are many more who are simply performers in the Political Show.

It is good politics for Democrats to separate the media in the minds of average voters from the political process, because as long as people hear the words "liberal media" (and the GOP will never stop saying it) they will associate liberalism with an institution that can no longer be respected. We have enough to do without having to carry the burden of the media's credibility problems on top of everything else.