Inchoate Fears, Fox News, and the Iron Law of Institutions

From the NY Times, we read about this collapse by Democrats in rural Virginia (boldface mine):

But while some Democratic politicians now recognize the scope of their rural problem, the words of voters in Bath County expose the difficulty in finding solutions. In interviews with a dozen white, rural voters who backed Mr. Youngkin, policy was less important than grievance and their own identity politics. And the voters, fueled by a conservative media bubble that speaks in apocalyptic terms, were convinced that America had been brought to the brink by a litany of social movements that had gone too far

Ms. Neff said she cried from a mix of happiness and relief after the election. She does not want to take the coronavirus vaccine and believes Glenn Youngkin, the winning Republican candidate for governor, will relax state mandates. Outside a nearby grocery store, Charles Hamilton taunted the Democrats.

Which brings us to something Greg Sargent wrote recently (boldface mine):

But this duplicity has benefited from a hidden assist. For months, Youngkin and his allies have pumped that raw right-wing sewage directly into the minds of the GOP base, behind the backs of moderate swing voters, via a right-wing media network that has no rival on the Democratic side.

Democrats will have to reckon with this. Whether Democrat Terry McAuliffe wins or loses — it will be very close either way — this race highlights this lopsided communications imbalance with unique clarity

The right-wing media is likely playing a major role in making this viable. Consider critical race theory, or CRT.

Let’s acknowledge that Youngkin isn’t using CRT as just a base motivator. He campaigns on it in swingy areas, and this will be partly a referendum on whether the issue can lure back the suburbs.

But to focus only on that misses the full story. Youngkin and his allies have transmitted some of their most visceral and hallucinogenic versions of the anti-CRT demagoguery straight to the base via right-wing media…

Indeed, Matt Gertz of Media Matters estimates that Fox News ran up to 100 segments on CRT in Virginia last spring, even though it isn’t taught in Virginia schools…

Yet here’s the question in Virginia: Even though McAuliffe and his allies are doing this, is the message getting to their base as effectively as GOP culture warring gets to the GOP one?

It’s doubtful. In contrast to countless Fox segments on CRT, Democrats rely on more conventional news outlets to reach their voters.

“One of the strategic advantages that Republicans have is they’re able to feed their base propaganda and misinformation directly through their news outlets,” David Turner, senior strategist at the Democratic Governors Association, told me.

The Democratic Party needs to figure out ways to more actively court its base voters on a regular basis,” Turner continued.

We’ll return to Sargent in a bit, because he’s both right and wrong. Let’s bring everyone up to speed on what the Iron Law of Institutions is (boldface mine):

…the Democrats operate according to the Iron Law of Institutions. The Iron Law of Institutions is: the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution “fail” while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to “succeed” if that requires them to lose power within the institution.

So Sargent is right: Democrats, among many other things, need a full-time (not campaign-based) communications apparatus. Since professional Democrats almost always suck at their jobs (when they’re not grifting), it can’t be left to the party professionals. Which creates a problem. Way back in the day, there was this thing called ‘the netroots’–and the Democratic Party hated it (even though it wasn’t that lefty at all). Why? Because they couldn’t control it (they tried, failed, and so, instead, just starved it of oxygen, which is to say, funding). They don’t want a Democratic-aligned yet uncontrolled media ecosystem, precisely because they can’t control it. After all, to the extent there is a ‘left media’, it doesn’t flatter many Democrats, and, often, will attack them (this is likely one reason why too many professional Democrats don’t dislike the more mainstream media–while it might be biased against them, it doesn’t really expose their corrupt members anymore).

This is part of a larger pattern of Democrats demobilizing their base. Until professional Democrats are willing to relinquish some control–and to date, they’re not, we won’t right the media imbalance*.

*Which isn’t the only problem Democrats face.

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4 Responses to Inchoate Fears, Fox News, and the Iron Law of Institutions

  1. The Law of Institutions has an important corollary, which could be expressed as follows: “The persons inside an institution will place the interests of the institution above those of the constituencies that the institution is nominally defined to serve.”

    This inherently resonates with, and describes the experience of, a wider audience.

  2. Pingback: Mike's Blog site Round-Up|Scoundrels and also Phonies - The True USA

  3. Feckless says:

    Two false “activists” for a Seattle BLM (who had voted for W) faction spoke at the netroots in Arizona in 2016 and then they showed up at Bernie rally in Seattle literally seized the microphone from his hand (older folks in the crowd had vision of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated) and created a false narrative that Bernie hated black people
    There’s your uncontrolled media environment run by the base.
    Same people that brought you the Seattle chop which helped keep Republicans in power.

    I wish the Dems would fire the “leadership” class that has been losing elections and wasting power for 20 years.

  4. anynameleft says:

    And now with more corporate welfare accrueing to demented donnies rural supporters the infrastructure bill will help pump more poison and inanities intothose feeble little inbred brains.
    Great move D’s pass a bill that rewards thuglican supporters and in doing so sound the death knell for the BBB bill, Voting rights etc.

    Also if CBO analysi on purely fiscal terms is needed before even a vote can be considered in the house isn’t it about time that this applies to the Defense budget and the “Black Budget” ( secret budget for nefarious and criminal orgs such as CIA, NSA and merc forces such as blackwater)

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