I bet you didn’t realize that conservative media was to blame for Mitt Romney’s loss by about 3% of the total vote, much closer in swing states.
That’s the story line at Buzzfeed Politics, How The Conservative Media Lost The Election. It is a story with barely a dissenting voice. Buzzfeed fails to make any distinctions between large conservative media outlets (e.g., National Review, The Weekly Standard, and The Daily Caller) and the conservative blogosphere, and most important, does not make the connection to Romney’s loss.
“Conservative media could have done better” does not equal “Conservative media lost the election for the Republicans.”
Buzzfeed quotes three reasonable people on the subject — Dan Riehl, Ben Domenech, and John Podhoretz — each of whom weighs in with thoughts on what we could have done better, and Monday morning quarterbacking on whether the focus on Obama’s past was effective.
Nothing wrong with that in isolation; reflection after a loss is a good thing. But Buzzfeed uses that reflection to make a point the people it quotes do not make — that somehow conservative media caused the loss.
“I think the right media may have erred,” Dan Riehl, a contributor to Breitbart News and longtime proprietor of Riehl World News, told BuzzFeed a week after the election. “I think we let Obama get into our heads and we wound up campaigning against him, rather than for the things we believe in.”
“It was a trap,” he added. “And one I can’t say I didn’t fall into.”
Fair enough, and a point made here often. (Dan has an update to his comment which is worth reading.)
One of the failures of Mitt Romney from the start of the primaries was to make the case for Mitt Romney, rather than against other candidates. Large conservative media outlets went along, bashing the crap out of Newt, who was the only serious challenger to Romney. There is a huge distinction to be made between the National Reviews and Jennifer Rubins of the world and the conservative base bloggers who pointed out the problem with nominating a candidate whose only reason to be was a questionable narrative of electability.
Once the general election started, the conservative blogs fell into line behind the nominee, joining with the larger outlets. But was it conservative media’s collective obligation in the general election to make the positive case for a candidate we supported not because we supported him but because he was not Barack Obama?
Mitt Romney needed to make the case for Mitt Romney, and he didn’t until that first debate. Even then, it was too little, too late.
Buzzfeed then focuses on whether we spent too much time complaining about media which were cheerleaders for Obama.
Some conservative writers now worry that their media outlets spent too much time poking and prodding old-guard journalistic institutions rather than digging up dirt on the Obama administration.
“My impression from the outside was that the target of the vetting effort was always the mainstream media, not really the president,” said Ben Domenech, a conservative blogger and co-founder of the long-running conservative blog RedState.com.
Domenech said conservative coverage of Obama’s first term drifted “too often toward entertainment and mockery, and too little toward the critical and hard work of investigation.”
“I think it’s a bit disappointing that the major scandals during Obama’s administration thus far have all been broken by mainstream media entities, not journalists on the right,” he added.
I’m not sure to which “major scandals” Ben is referring. It seems that Fox News pushed the hardest on Fast and Furious and Benghazi, and conservative media fought pretty hard to expose the failures of the Stimulus and to expose Obamacare’s inherent flaws. Those narratives were crushed by the mainstream media’s love affair with Obama, but that hardly is the fault of conservative media.
There are structural faults in the conservative media, for sure. Too much opinion and commentary, not enough digging for original news. But it would not have made a difference anyway in this cycle; other than Fox News, there is no mainstream media which will cover stories broken by the conservative media.
Buzzfeed saves its real ire for Breitbart.com, with which Buzzfeed has a feud:
The consensus soon emerged on the right was that if Americans were fully aware of Obama’s relationship with extremists like Reverend Jeremiah Wright and the former Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers, they never would have elected him. And since tank-dwelling mainstream reporters couldn’t be trusted to expose The Real Obama, it would be left to the crusading online right to get the job done.
Breitbart News efficiently captured this sentiment with a mission statement earlier this year, where they promised to “vet the president.” …
The mission of the conservative media, then, became less to “stand athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!’” — as National Review‘s founding editor famously put it — and more to stand athwart the New York Times White House coverage, yelling “Biased!”
Buzzfeed presents a similar narrative for The Daily Caller.
The focus by Breitbart.com and The Daily Caller on Obama’s past may not have played out as well as anticipated — and Buzzfeed worked pretty hard to make sure that was the case. But I give them credit for trying, although I do fault The Daily Caller for its late-inning, over-hyped old video of Obama.
John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary and a prolific tweeter, rejected the notion that Obama’s reelection represented a failure of the conservative media. But he said that as the GOP tries to widen its tent in the coming months and years, conservative sites will need to stay out of the way — or better yet, cheer on the effort.
He singled out RedState.com, which has earned credibility on the right, in part, by targeting vulnerable moderates in Republican primaries, and directing grassroots readers to defeat them. Podhoretz warned against the site’s “hunger and desire to establish an ideological party line and draw boundaries around it, and say anyone who’s not in this line should not be elected and should be destroyed.”
“A deliberate choice is going to have to be made,” he said. “Is RedState a news and information website, or is it an activist partisan Republican website pushing specific politicians? Regrettably, right now I think it’s more the latter than the former.”
Why must there be uniformity in the conservative media? What’s wrong with an outlet like Red State taking a harder line than Commentary?
In the end, what you have in the Buzzfeed article is second guessing. Nothing wrong with that.
But nowhere is the connection made to Romney’s loss.