I’ve noticed an odd trend in conservative circles revolving around self-identification. Some folks at the conservative end of the spectrum seem to have a clear idea of what they are NOT. Unfortunately, this self perception is delusional. Two cases in point:
I spent the better part of last week confined to a hospital suffering from flu-induced pneumonia. To the hospital’s credit, they had a cable line up that could rival that of the finest hotel. Unfortunately, my liberal leanings were short circuited by the absence of MSNBC. I knew if I watched too much CNN I would only extend my hospital stay. So I did what any other political junkie in my position would have done …. I watched Fox News Channel. Whether I watched “The Five” or Neil Cavuto or Hannity, one consistent meme I heard repeated was their derogatory references to “the main stream media”. The more I heard this, the funnier it seemed. Fox News Channel consistently beats CNN and MSNBC in ratings. While I hate to admit it, they are the kings of 24 hour news coverage. More folks watch them than their competitors. So could someone please tell me how FNC is not the mainstream media? These are the outsiders? These are the underdogs? Give me a break. Of course, claiming not to be mainstream pumps up their aggrieved victim status and clearly if conservative politics has become anything of late it has become the politics of aggrievement. Still I found this self-delusion of being outside the mainstream pretty amusing.
The other example involves the GOP Presidential contenders themselves. If you left your brain in your bottom desk drawer, you would believe that these are four brave Washington outsiders. These are men who rail at big government. They are the ones who will change everything. Yet even a cursory examination reveals that three of the four are Washington institutions. Newt Gingrich, the infamous Speaker of the House from the 1990’s has since his ouster profited from Washington connections for the past 20 years. Ron Paul has been a House Representative since 1976 with about a 12 year hiatus in the late 80’s/early 90’s. For all his rhetoric and a good 30 years of Washington experience, he hasn’t moved the needle one inch toward a less intrusive Washington.
And then there is former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Santorum has been a Washington fixture since 1991 and qualifies as an outsider now only because he lost his Senate seat in 2006. Unlike veteran Ron Paul, Santorum doesn’t even try to hide his “Washington disease”. He speaks in legislative mumbo jumbo. He talks about the bills he has championed. He talks about having to vote against conscience “to take one for the team.” He sounds like anything but a Washington outsider.
Yet each of these men would have you believe they oppose the very government that has employed them for decades. Are they fooling themselves or just trying to pull something over on the rest of us?
When you dig under the outsider rhetoric of Fox News Channel and the GOP contenders, you come to a disheartening conclusion. They’re all playing for the same team as those currently in power and real meaningful change is highly unlikely in the near future.