On Friday, Washington Monthly's Ed Kilgore and Kevin Drum of Mother Jones contended that the conservative war on political correctness is a tempest in a teapot, and that being politically correct is pretty much synonymous with not being a bigoted jerk.
Tom Johnson covers mostly websites (e.g., Salon, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos) for NewsBusters. He blogged frequently for the site from 2005 until 2007 and has been a regular contributor since 2011. From 1989 until 2002, he was an entertainment analyst for the Media Research Center and its spinoff, the Parents Television Council. From July 2004 until June 2005, he monitored National Public Radio for the MRC. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona.
The Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor famously and emphatically rejected the idea that the host used in the Communion rite is a mere symbol. Gun owners might have a similarly negative response to Adam Gopnik’s claim that guns “have an almost entirely symbolic function.”
“No lives are saved, and no intruders are repelled [by the use of guns]; the dense and hysterical mythology of gun love has been refuted again and again,” declared Gopnik in a Friday post dealing in part with this week’s murder of two TV journalists near Roanoke, Va. “The few useful social functions that guns do have—in hunting or in killing varmints, as a rural man such as my father has to do—can be preserved even with tight regulations, as in Canada.”
A great many Fox News hosts and contributors publicly criticized Donald Trump’s latest Twitter swipes at Megyn Kelly. This raises a major pot-kettle issue, claims lefty writer Marcotte, in that these high-profile personalities who objected to Trump’s sexism work for a channel that disseminates one sexist message after another.
“The position at Fox News and elsewhere in the conservative media on women who talk back to men, or even just have the power to talk back to men,” wrote Marcotte in a Wednesday column for Talking Points Memo, is that “they are to be put in their place, with a vengeance. Any woman who has been targeted [by] the right wing flying monkeys of Twitter can attest to how well the audiences have absorbed this lesson. Screaming at bitches who don’t know their place is both a sacred cause and just a rowdy good time, in right wing circles…No one should understand this better than the people at Fox News. After all, this is the monster they created.”
Democrats typically argue that almost all of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s mistakes have been molehills that Republicans have done their best to make into mountains. Heather Digby Parton thinks that the GOP has been aided in that regard by the mainstream media.
“One of the major effects of the patented ‘Clinton Scandal’ that’s become a fixture of political conversation over the past two decades is the helplessness in engenders in Democrats,” wrote Parton in a Monday piece. “They know it’s not a real scandal, and yet the press is blatantly aroused by the opportunity to speculate wildly about ‘what it all means’ while the Republicans smugly repeat their talking points with robotic military precision.”
Conservatives tend to be religious, but is conservatism itself akin to a religion? Yes, opined Washington Monthly blogger David Atkins in a Sunday post. “Many consider modern conservatism to be an almost cultic movement,” Atkins wrote. “Its adherents long since stopped caring about the evidence or empirical results. It’s all about who can prove truest to the faith, and maximally annoy and rebel against the evil liberal heathens.”
Atkins sees a resemblance between today’s conservatives and followers of the 20th century’s major pseudo-religion: “In a way, modern conservatives are similar to the Communists of old. No matter how obvious the ideology’s failure, the response is always that the policies were not enacted in a strong and pure enough manner.”
Although the term “anchor baby” has been around for only a couple of decades, the concept is several centuries old, believes Chauncey DeVega. In a Friday article, DeVega contended that the earliest American anchor babies were born to colonists, and that the modern term “cannot possibly be separated from the nightmare of white supremacy, of a democracy where human rights and citizenship were based on a person’s melanin count and parentage.”
DeVega further argued that a much broader racial agenda is at work: “Movement conservatives’ eager deployment of the ‘anchor baby’ meme — and their solution of revoking birthright citizenship through a rewrite of the Constitution– is in keeping with the Republican Party’s assault on the won-in-blood freedom of black and brown Americans. The ‘anchor baby’ talking point is yet more proof that the GOP is a radical and destructive political force, one that actively embraces white supremacy.”
Tales of people awakening in hotel bathtubs to find their kidneys had been removed were an Internet staple in the 1990s. Taub, who's expecting her first child, argues that those bogus stories have something in common with unwanted pregnancies, given that pregnancy is a “category of living organ donation.”
“The idea of forcing someone into an organ transplant is indeed so appalling that it is the subject of several horror films, not to mention urban myths the world over,” commented Taub in a Friday article. “But the idea of forcing someone, by law and against their will, to endure the physical tolls and dangers of pregnancy is somehow considered a mainstream political position.”
It’s a matter of political record that since at least 2009, Republicans have talked at length about health-care reform, especially alternatives to Obamacare. Apparently almost all of them were, as Jon Lovitz’s Master Thespian would put it, “Acting!” That’s essentially what The Week's Paul Waldman alleged in a Wednesday post.
“Republicans have faced a real health care problem for many years now, which is that health care just isn't their thing,” asserted Waldman. “It's one of those ‘mommy’ issues that liberals care about, while conservatives are much more likely to be interested in topics like tax policy or national defense. Yet throughout the Obama years, they've had to act like they both care about and understand the substance of this issue.”
The three Reconstruction Amendments to the Constitution were, as the term suggests, ratified in the wake of the Civil War. These days, according to Daily Kos writer Jon Perr, conservatives are generally OK with the anti-slavery 13th Amendment but have watered down the 15th, which abolished racial restrictions on voting, and reserve their “greatest and most visceral…scorn” for the 14th, as indicated by the hubbub over matters such as birthright citizenship.
“After all,” Perr declared in a Sunday piece, “many on the right still seek to deny to African Americans, Latino Americans and gay Americans due process and equal protection of the laws promised to ‘all persons born or naturalized in the United States.’ Instead, as growing numbers of Republicans insist, those 14th Amendment rights are limited to corporations and fetuses, neither of which are an actual person at all.”
In the late 1980s, the Bears (a briefly great band, not the football team) pointed out, “This world hangs by a slender thread/Trust.” Daily Beast columnist and MSNBC pundit Alter argued Monday that Hillary Clinton’s current political malaise is rooted in her failure to trust the American people rather than in any real wrongdoing on her part.
“Hillary’s problem is not the emails story itself, but her response to it, which has been halting and defensive,” declared Alter. “The reason so many voters don’t trust Hillary is she doesn’t trust them. Trust is reciprocal. If she trusted the public more, she would be mixing it up in the media more, like [Donald] Trump, and betting that the public will eventually sort out the truth.”
The Week’s Paul Waldman agrees with conservatives that the undercover Planned Parenthood videos raise a profound moral issue, but disagrees sharply with them over what that issue is. In a Friday post, Waldman asserted that “this controversy simply has nothing to do with fetal tissue” and claimed that it’s really about the right’s disgust with women’s sexual “autonomy.”
“Republicans have always hated Planned Parenthood, not only because it provides abortions but because it's a forthright advocate on behalf of women's rights to control their own reproductive lives,” wrote Waldman. “Nothing is more horrifying to a certain kind of conservative than a woman who has sex because she wants to, and does so without being punished for her sin.”
There’s going to be a Top Gun sequel, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous is coming back, and Bloom County has already returned. Still, suggests Esquire's Pierce, when it comes to things that have the 1980s written all over them, these days Donald Trump is the king of the mountain.
In a Tuesday post, Pierce contended that Trump “was one of the purest products of the Age of Reagan, which was nothing if not a celebration of vulgar excess, whether that was illustrated by the excessive opulence of people like Trump or the excessive self-regard of the mindless nationalistic chest-beating that kept Reagan's administration aloft through scandal after scandal. In that time, the country was louder and more stupid than it had been for a very long time.”
When you think of tough crowds, Philadelphia sports fans or the audience for Amateur Night at the Apollo may come to mind. The Washington Monthly's D.R. Tucker thought of the “right-wing Republicans” he expects will heckle Pope Francis when the pontiff speaks before a joint session of Congress late next month.
“Joe Wilson’s…infamous 2009 'You lie!' outburst will be considered a term of endearment relative to what ultra-conservative Republicans will holler when the Holy Father discusses income inequality and climate change in his speech,” wrote Tucker in a Sunday post. “Right-wing obnoxiousness has no known limits, and it’s a guarantee that you will see Republicans on their worst behavior on September 24…Their contempt will thrust forth like the ‘chestburster’ in Alien. Their voices will vibrate with venom.”
For close to a hundred and fifty years, the elephant has represented the Republican party, but The American Prospect’s Meyerson suggests that these days, a more fitting choice for the GOP’s symbol would be an extended middle finger.
In his analysis of Thursday’s prime-time presidential debate, Meyerson, who also writes a weekly column for The Washington Post, identified several of the candidates onstage in Cleveland as “Fuck-You Republicans.” He explained that some FYRs, such as Ted Cruz and Scott Walker, qualify by dint of ideology; others (Donald Trump, Chris Christie) make it in mostly through anger and abrasiveness.
If you watched Thursday night’s Republican debate and wished that a onetime Green Party presidential nominee had been asking the questions, then you agree with Washington correspondent John Nichols, who thinks Ralph Nader would be the “ideal prospect” to moderate presidential debates for both major parties.
Spoilsports might argue that Nader’s fifty-year record of lefty activism would make him a problematic choice to host a GOP debate. Nichols sidesteps that issue by pointing out that Nader is “neither a Republican nor a Democrat” and, besides, “he knows every issue, and he is on to every dodge that every contender might attempt when it comes to addressing the issues.”
Imagine an Abortion Pride Day parade in which women march while pushing empty strollers and baby carriages. That’s not far off from what Mother Jones pundit Drum recommended in a Wednesday post.
Drum suggested that women who’ve had an abortion and believe they made the right choice ought to say so publicly, and that they should view out gays and lesbians as role models in that regard: “As long as gays stayed largely closeted, it was easy for most people to think there weren't very many of them…[but] as more and more gays came out, that view was forced to fade away…The same is true of abortion…When it turns out your next-door neighbor had an abortion? Or the waitress at the diner you go to for lunch? Or your doctor? Then it gets a little harder to think of it as something unusual and sort of icky. It's just something people do.”
Politics involves the heart and the mind, and in general the best politicians appeal to both. Then there’s Donald Trump. Jonathan Chait of New York magazine argues that Trump’s campaign is pretty close to mindless, but it seems that to many rank-and-file Republicans, that’s a feature rather than a bug.
“Outsiders have struggled to comprehend how Republican voters can attach themselves to an economic agenda so plainly at odds with their own interest, or whip themselves into a frenzy over a manufactured outrage,” wrote Chait in a Tuesday post. “Trump embodies that mysterious X factor that has eluded analysts of all sides…Trump is not the spokesman for an idea at all, but the representation of undifferentiated resentment.”
Almost a quarter-century ago, Seal sang, “We're never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy.” These days, suggests Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall, it’s awfully hard to survive in the Republican presidential race if you’re only a little crazy, now that Donald Trump “has flooded the market with a new, purer brand of Crazy that has left the other candidates scrambling and basically unable to compete.”
“Trump is in many ways the logical end result of seven years -- really two-plus decades -- of Republican cultivation of anger and grievance as a method of conducting politics,” asserted Marshall in a Monday post, adding that Trump “has managed to boil modern Republicanism down to a hard precipitate form, shorn of the final vestiges of interest in actual governing.”
Arthur Chu, best known as one of the all-time biggest money-winners on Jeopardy!, is also a writer who frequently contributes to Salon. In a Thursday article, Chu saluted departing Daily Show host Jon Stewart for, among other things, keeping him sane during his college days. Unfortunately, recalled Chu, back then America as a whole had lost its mind.
Meanwhile, in the August issue of Vanity Fair, James Wolcott gave props to Stewart for “all that he’s been through on our behalf, subjecting himself to a radiation bombardment of mostly right-wing idiocy."
David Roberts has penned a tale of two media, dealing first with how a profusion of conservative outlets has pulled the Republican party to the right -- the subject of a recent Harvard study -- then pivoting to analyze the mainstream media’s belated (and still incomplete) awakening to the GOP’s “radicalism.”
“One of the longstanding critiques of mainstream media on the left,” wrote Roberts in a Thursday article, “was that reporters in the Beltway ‘Village’ failed to grasp modern conservatism and wrote about it in such a way as to sand down and mute its extremity…[T]here are still plenty of mainstream political reporters who cling to the both-sides illusion to this day…But as the far right sends the Republican Party through an ever-more-absurd series of showdowns and tantrums, the illusion is fading.”