Part 4—Contempt for our own voters too: If our elites were capable of such states, we’d say that Ryan Lizza embarrassed himself last Friday.
We’d say that Charles Blow was still playing the same silly game three days later. But then, what else is new?
Is it true? Did Jeb Bush callously dismiss the Oregon shootings by callously saying, “Stuff happens?” If we want to be fair, if we want to be honest, well no, he pretty much didn’t.
But then, who wants to be honest or fair within our own devolving tribe? It’s more fun to be dull-witted and lazy—to play the role of adepts and priests in The Cult of the Offhand Comment.
For our money, Bush offered a soft, even slightly dishonest statement about the Oregon shootings. He couldn’t seem to imagine a single thing the Congress could do in response!
It ought to be easy to show the public the slippery dishonesty of that presentation, which was echoed by other Republican candidates. But so what? It’s more fun to cadge a two-word quotation which shows us how callous The Other Tribe is—and in truth, we liberals don’t bother with the public too much at this point.
Do we perhaps have contempt for the public? Consider something which occurred just last evening, on Hardball.
Surrounded by an obedient panel, Chris Matthews played videotape of a focus group in New Hampshire. Some of what happened next was surprising. Some of what happened next wasn’t.
First, the part which wasn’t surprising. After playing some tape of the focus group, Matthews openly mocked them. To watch the whole segment, click here:
MATTHEWS (10/7/15): I don’t know what you make of that. I don’t make anything of it.The panelists poked at the focus group. Eventually, Matthews added this assessment:
Time now for the Hardball roundtable. We have a smarter roundtable here than there, I can tell you that!
Carol Lee is White House correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. David Corn is Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones and Francesca Chambers is the White House correspondent for the Daily Mail.
David, it reminds me of what Winston Churchill. The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. I don’t know how much thought those people put into it or why we should listen to them. What did you get out of it, the focus group here?
“By the way, they may have been a random group, but they certainly weren’t randy. That was the dullest looking group of people! Did you have to wake me up for this?”
Matthews’ undisguised contempt shouldn’t be all that surprising. Night after night, viewers of cable programs like Hardball see panels of pundits expressing their own deathless views about the latest meaningless bumps in the latest meaningless polls.
Such programs virtually never interview voters in an attempt to understand the way the world looks to them. We’re often struck by this lack of curiosity, especially at this peculiar time.
What makes this era peculiar? For better or worse, we live at a time when all the gatekeepers are gone—gatekeepers in the press corps and in our political parties.
We no longer have Walter and David to shield us from hearing crazy ideas on the evening news. Indeed, the promulgation of crazy ideas is a major industry now—on talk radio, on cable news and all across the web.
People are selling us crazy ideas twenty-hours a day now! Meanwhile, the gatekeepers in the two major parties are increasingly absent too.
This year, we’re seeing where the loss of those political gatekeepers leads. At present, the Republican race is dominated by candidates who would have died in the “smoke-filled rooms” where party elders once picked our candidates for us.
Under the old regime, these candidates wouldn’t have been allowed to enter the game. This year, they’ve been offering crazy-seeming ideas too, like talk and cable before them.
As these cultural changes hold sway, our electorate increasingly boasts strange ideas and beliefs.
According to a survey in late August, 66 percent of Trump supporters believe Obama is a Muslim. Only 21 percent of Trump supporters said the president was born in this country.
Why do voters believe such things? We’re often struck by the fact that cable news programs don’t bother to seek them out and ask! Has any show on MSNBC ever interviewed Republican voters to ask about these and other views? We’re often amazed by our tribe’s insularity—our lack of curiosity, the lack of an instinct toward outreach.
In this context, it was hardly surprising when Matthews mocked those voters in that focus group. According to the cable star, they were the dullest looking group of people—an argument against democracy.
He didn’t know why we should listen to them! For reasons at which we can only guess, he said his own panel was brighter.
Truly, it shouldn’t have been surprising to see Matthews mocking those voters. If you’ve watched the Maddow Show down through the years, you’ve been exposed to the landlocked contempt we “liberals” sometimes aim at the unclean and unwashed.
Here’s the part which may seem surprising—the focus group Matthews mocked last night was composed of Democratic voters! If we might adapt the old movie line, this is the way we treat people we like! On-line, you’ve surely seen the scorn we direct toward those in The Other Tribe.
Later in last night’s panel segment, Matthews also rolled his eyes at some Republican voters, specifically citing their crazy attitudes about guns. In our view, some crazy ideas about guns have been floating around for a very long time, along with ideas which aren't crazy. But this was clueless too:
MATTHEWS: In an interview with USA Today, Dr. Carson said gun control is the first step towards tyranny...So he actually is suggesting, Francesca, that there’s somebody in Washington or somewhere who’s trying to collect all the guns so they can create a tyranny. Who would that person be? Or even conceptually, where is this happening?Matthews went on from there.
A lot of crazy ideas about guns have floated around through the years. With the rise of talk radio, cable TV and the web, it’s easier to spread these ideas.
On the other hand, where might a voter get the idea that someone might want to take their guns? In the week since the Oregon killings, any number of liberals, from Obama on down, have cited Australia and Great Britain as models in the realm of gun safety.
Conservatives are being told that those countries outlawed guns, a claim which isn’t totally wrong. At any rate, you won’t see liberals engaging in outreach on this key tribal matter. Rather than interview conservative voters, Matthews will simply mock them on TV with the help of his three pundit slaves.
The notion of outreach—it’s admittedly hard—will occur to few of our spotless minds. Last night, no one on the Matthews panel answered the question he asked about guns.
Where are they getting their crazy ideas? No one attempted to say.
This very morning, the new Salon is letting us know that We are better with grammar than They are. Within our own glorious tribe, our bloated sense of self is large, but our outreach can be hard to find.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at what Rachel said. Why do we liberals accept this?
Tomorrow: She always loved Boehner!
Australia and Great Britain, grabbing guns: For one account, click here.