The Decline of the Chattering Class and the Rise of the Discussion Class.

You’d never know Barack Obama has an approval rating in the mid-60s. Higher if you poll among Ds and Is and exclude Rs.

I say this because there appears to be no lack of people who are either pundits themselves, or can command the attention of the media, with all manner of advice on how Obama should be talking or behaving (substance appears to be utterly irrelevant). The latest is Bill Clinton, who thinks Obama needs to “sound more hopeful.” I refer to this group of talking heads who with the rise of the cable news networks and the 24 hour news cycle have enjoyed a lengthy run as opinion leaders as the “Chattering Class.” To fill the time — and cut back on actual news reporting, which costs money — the talk radio folks, the cable news shows, and now even the newspapers have created a class of pundits, experts, and analysts who exist for the sole purpose of supplying chatter to fill up the space. Indeed, I am always amused at the criticism that the rise of the blogs means the death of news because the hardcore news folks switched from mostly news to mostly chatter some time ago.

For years, the Chattering Class has controlled and framed debates around policy for most Americans. And, as one might expect, chattering about style and insider games takes precedence over actual substance. Not only is it cheaper and easier, as it requires no expertise, it is self-re-enforcing. This has corresponded, not coincidentally in my opinion, with the general disinterest by an increasing number of Americans in politics and public policy.

But what the Chattering Class talk about and how they frame winners and losers has become so disconnected from the reality people experience that folks have begun to notice. Not merely those “whacky left-wing totally non-mainstream” bloggers at TPM and elsewhere. Frank Rich observed in an opinion piece in last Sunday’s NYT that the Washington press corp has degenerated into the equivalent of a high school clique obsessed with their petty gossip and insular rules that define who is in and who is out.

This is why Bill Clinton, a man who in his prime ranked as one of the most gifted political campaigners to grace the national stage,feels the urge to give some “helpful advice” to the man who not only won the election, but is still clocking in with approval ratings that bespeak of enormous popularity. It is why the news continues to focus on things like whether the stimulus is actually a “loss” and is only gradually, and reluctantly, turning to the question of its anticipated impact. And it is why the Chattering Class is, after unquestionable dominance of public opinion for nearly 20 years, starting to lose it’s ability to frame the issues.

More below . . . .

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How Fox News Killed The Bradley Effect

Pundits and talking heads have debated the Bradley Effect (or, as we locals call it, the Wilder Effect) and whether Obama’s current lead in the polls represents false positive. Even before Obama, there existed considerable evidence that the Bradley Effect was fading. Having canvassed this weekend in VA, I have concluded that it has pretty much vanished.

Why? Because conservative talk radio and Fox News have given voters the tools they need to say things that might sound racist, but don’t really make you a racist for saying them. Whatever one may think of this as an argument, it has had the enormous benefit of eliminating the polling problems associated with the embarrassment of being mistaken for a racist when you are simply saying things that only sound racist.

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Hypothesis: Why Limbaugh, Coulter et al are renouncing McCain

As has been reported widely, the right wing blowhards of talk radio & pundit television have been making a big stink about how John McCain is anathema. Some people who comment on this phenomenon attempt to explain it in terms of ideological disagreements between the candidate and said blowhards, or in terms of personal animosities arising from McCain’s prickly temper and his dissing of some of the lesser gods of the Republican pantheon, etc.

I think that’s a lot of baloney.

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Saints Belichick and Brady fail attempt at bodily ascension into heaven; whiney-ass titty-babies of WEEI-land put on suicide watch

On Boston’s WEEI radio, where mindless Republican cant mixes with sports cliche, capitalist hagiography and homoerotic hero worship, the pain is palpable.

I’m a fan of the New England Patriots and wanted them to win the Super-Duper Bowl. But I certainly didn’t expect that they would, given what went down the last time these two teams played. Neither did I expect that they would lose. I had no expectations; I thought it could go either way. It was a fun game to watch, back and forth right down to the last minute. The Patriots could have won it, but they didn’t. Oh well.

But there’s a bright side, a very shiny, happy bright side to the Pat’s loss. And that’s that the canonization of saints-in-waiting Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and Bob Kraft and the rest of the Patriots enterprise has been put on indefinite hold. And what’s even better, all the bozo Pats fans who take this stuff too seriously will have to shut up, at least a little. And what’s the best thing of all is that the talk radio radio hosts of WEEI, among whom are some of the biggest assholes in all New England, are going to be whining and weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth from now until spring training, whilst the rest of the sports-watching country gloats about how the “arrogant, cheating” Pats choked.

What a happy thought!

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To the Democrats Who Voted for the Cornyn Amendment Condmening “Liberal Activist” Moveon and the “General Betray Us Ad”

To the Democrats who voted in favor of the Cornyn Amendment to condemn the “Liberal activist organization” Moveon for its “General Betray-Us” Advertisement.

I can only say — SHAME! Shame on you for siding with the conservative talk show bullies! Shame on you for once again perpetuating this twisted double standard in which the merchants of venom and filth scold their opponents for daring to raise their voices in protest and speak truth to power. Where were you when Max Clealand — a man who risked his life in the service of his country, losing limbs for our liberty — faced far worse “personal attacks” on his honor and bravery for daring to question the rush to War? Where was the Senate outrage then? Where were you then? You were cowering before the conservative mob, running like frightened stag before the baying talk radio hounds, while the Republicans you joined with for this shameful vote laughed at your cowardice and timidity. And now, six years later, you have proven yourselves once again to be the same timid deer, ready to run wherever you are driven when the talk radio pit bulls bare their teeth and growl.

I am tired of you. I’m tired of hearing your brave talk of “Change” and “Taking a Stand,” only to see you time and again knuckle under to the same tricks and demagoguery that held you paralyzed in the past. Your helplessness has become a joke of the late night talk shows. Your cravenness has become a byword among your opponents, who have lost whatever fear they may have felt after seeing us bring you into power after 12 long years of minority status. And your pathetic timidity has become a bitter disappointment to those of us that elected you to create change and take a stand.

I am done with you. Neither you, or The Democratic Party general reelection fund, will receive one more dime from me until a sufficient number of you are replaced with men and women willing to stand up for principle. I and the other “liberal activists” the Cornyn Amendment explicitly condemns shall seek out new candidates willing to stand up against the talk show bullies and the Conservative demagogues who seek to brow beat the opposition into silence with mock indignation, while reserving for themselves the right to spew poisonous vitriol on all who disagree. You will have no more “safe” districts or “safe” states. What use have I or other “liberal activists” — who have sought only to see an end to the tragedy that has become our failed involvement in Iraq and to protect ourselves and our fellow Americans from the rapaciousness of a new generation of corporate Robber Barons — for so-called Democrats who quail before the conservative talk show bullies and crawl to do their bidding? We will find new candidates, brave men and women willing to speak truth to power, and with the spine to carry their conviction from the campaign trail to the Capital.

It may be that you can provide some satisfactory answer to your unconscionable vote and redeem yourselves, but I sincerely doubt it. For actually crossing party lines to condemn the Moveon ad, I have nothing but contempt. It is not merely that you are utterly wrong on substance. It is not merely that this latest craven surrender to the Conservative noise machine marks you once again as unfit to lead our nation in the direction it must go. It is the sheer, utter, lemming-like suicidal imbecility with which you seem determined to leap over the proverbial cliff and throw yourselves into the sea. As a matter of pure, cold blooded political calculation, I am simply astounded at your utter disregard for those who have paid with sweat, blood and treasure to put you and the Democratic Party back in the majority. I am appalled at your inability to perceive the misgivings of your “base” that despite your brave talk you would in the end once again disappoint us by prostrating yourselves before the Conservative talk show bullies who — after two decades of unrestrained consolidation and the death of the Fairness Doctrine — dominate our public airwaves with their vitriol and drown out all voices of dissent with your craven assistance. What “vital center” do you think you win by continued reaffirmations of your political cowardice and timidity? What “centrists” do you think you inspire with consistent craven surrender to the Conservative right?

Had you resisted your craven impulse to bow to the Right, sadly grown into unthinking habit from long use, this “controversy” would have been dismissed as a mere sideshow, the vaporings of the Conservative talk show bullies and Republican demagogues, forgotten in the wake of the next OJ bulletin. But no, you have given your imprimatur to their brayings, handed them another victory to reenforce the perception of their power, and deeply offended those on whom you must rely for success. When your fundraisers call, or those from the Democratic Party call, I shall make clear to them precisely what I think of Democrats who quiver to do the bidding of the Cavutos and Limbaughs of the world instead of standing up for the principles on which they were elected.

To the Democrats who stood up to the bullies and voted against the Cornyn Resolution — especially the Democratic Candidates for President Hilary Clinton and Chris Dodd — you give me hope. In 2003, only two Democrats dared to defy the attack dogs of the right and make a stand against the pressure of the Conservative mob. Some Democrats, at least, can learn courage and can stand by their convictions. Whatever your personal feelings about the language of the advertisement (and there is certainly room for disagreement on whether it was useful, appropriate or effective), I am pleased to see that you have learned that trying to appease the talk show bullies is a losing proposition. You recognized that when push comes to shove and you must go on record and take a stand, and proved you are prepared to stand up for what you believe. You have learned to say “No, maybe I didn’t like the ad and thought it’s criticism of Patraeus over the top, but I will not endorse a double standard that lets talk show bullies call us ‘traitors’ and ‘terrorists’ and ‘cowards’ who ‘cut and run,’ but who fake outrage and demand we disassociate ourselves from ‘despicable hate speech’ when others use much milder criticisms.”

If the rest of the Democratic Party can only learn from your example, there is still hope for 2008. Like Dorothy standing up to the Great and Powerful Oz and thus revealing him to be a fraud propped up with a loud voice and special effects machine, your example in standing up to the orchestrated outrage of the Conservative echo chamber can break the power of the talk show bullies over the cowardly lions, tin men, and scarecrows that make up the rest of the party.

To the Democrats who stood silent, thinking that this placed you above the fray and sent a proper nuanced message, a warning. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that “there is a time to speak, and a time to stay silent.” This is not the time for silence. Senator Mitch McConnell put it quite well when he said: “Let’s take sides. General Petraeus or Which one are we going to believe? Which one are we going to condemn?” Your silence, however meant, appeases no one and calls your principles into doubt. By refusing to take a stand, you leave yourself open to the accusation that you lacked the nerve to fully commit yourselves. Yes, there are times when it is both the right thing and the brave thing to refuse to engage at all, to follow the wisdom of the old adage that if you wrestle a fool in the mud no one watching will see much difference between the two. But there are also times when one must clearly and unambiguously pick a side.

I close with Senator McConnell’s call to arms. “Let’s take sides. General Petraeus or Which one are we going to believe? Which one are we going to condemn?” Yes indeed. That is the question the American people face, and will decide upon in the election of 2008. You Senators who chose Patraeous over Moveon, who claim to hate the War but cringe when the talk show bullies bark, have shown your true character and made your choice. We, the voters who brought the Democrats to power in 2006, who have done the impossible by giving the Democrats an hitherto unimaginable lead in fundraising against their Republican opponents, will not forget when we go to make our choice in November 2008.

Stay tuned . . . .

How The Conservative/Big Business Alliance Bankrupted Air America

Few things raised joyfull cackles among Republicans in the waning days of 2006. Many, however regarded the bankruptcy of Air America as a bright spot in an otherwise dismal fall. Talk radio, it appeared, remained part of the conservative “heartland” where such liberal voices as Al Franken meet a resounding silence.

However, as reported by the New York Times, the story may have a lot more to it then a tale of silly liberals who can’t run a business and have nothing interesting to say. It appears that 90 major national advertisers engaged in a boycott of Air America programming, to the extent that they wanted their advertising stripped out of syndicated material from other sources (here, ABC Radio Network). The interesting question, of course, is why would supposedly dissinterested companies with no motivation to interefere with domestic politics want to drive Air America out of business?

Hahahahaha…..I love it when I ask silly rhetorical questions like that. For a further specualtion on what apparently went on and why I think the new, Democratic Congress might want to do a little investigatin’ into the Case of Secret Boycott, see below….

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