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More on the WND Thing

Roberta X doesn’t like Jon Henke’s crusade against World Net Daily, because she thinks it reeks of the stuffy right worried that people are going to be programmed with wrongthink.  I can’t really speak for Jon Henke, but that’s not really my concern.  I know there’s an audience for what Joe Farrah is selling.  If there wasn’t, he wouldn’t be selling it.  That audience is really of very little concern to me, and I don’t worry all that much that there are people out there who think that Obama was born in Kenya.  I don’t worry all that much that people think they’ve been abducted by aliens.  I worry even less that folks might think that Elvis is really hanging out with JFK in an old folks home and battling the undead in their spare time.  But I am concerned with what banners the conservative movement marches under when we’re asking people to join us in helping build a governing majority.

There’s an important reason why this is a concern.  If you look at party affiliation in the United States, it looks something like this.  If votes went along straight party lines, the Democrats would never lose an election, and we’d be selling stylish, cheap furniture, boring, but remarkably safe and reliable cars, and developing a growing fondness for herring.  Yep.  We’d already be Sweden.  But we’re not.  Why?  Because conservatives enjoy an ideological advantage, in that most Americans can identify with at least some parts of the conservative platform.  But to get their votes, Republicans have to attract votes from people who are not Republicans.

Latest Gallup poll from 2009 shows that 26% of voters identify Republican, 33% Democrat, and 39% independent.  The party that’s doing the best job of attracting independents to their message at any given time is going to be the party in power.  There’s a lot of wasted ink in trying to figure out the key to winning independents, but if there’s one thing that’s probably safe to say about them, it’s that most aren’t really on board with partisan extremism.

My problem with WND and the birthers isn’t that they exist.  My problem with Joe Farrah isn’t that he makes money providing material the kooky right greedily devours.  It’s a free, capitalist country, after all.  My problem is that by trying to bring them into the coalition, and by lending Farrah and his audience legitimacy, we’re going to turn away the independent voters.  Voters who might be a little pissed off at what’s coming out of Washington these days — who might not want their taxes raised, and might not want their kids in debt to their eyeballs before they even get a job.  I don’t want them thinking that by voting for conservative candidates who might share many of these values, that they are by association endorsing the kooky ideas emanating out of the birthersphere.  The question in accepting any group into your coalition is do they bring more to the table than they drive away from it.  I think the answer with the WND crowd is no.

18 Responses to “More on the WND Thing”

  1. Chris Byrne says:

    The problem with Farrah, is that he mixes unsourced or poorly sourced, and clearly agenda driven and distorted items, right in with the good legitimate news.

    This discredits that good, legitimate news, or lends credence to the BS; depending on ones perspective.

  2. markofafreeman says:

    I don’t want them thinking that by voting for conservative candidates who might share many of these values, that they are by association endorsing the kooky ideas emanating out of the birthersphere.

    I don’t read much Joe Farrah, and know even less about the current kerfuffle with the Kenya thing. However, the comment above, IMNSHO, shows a surprising lack of trust in those supposed independents’ intelligence.

    Sure, I take note of who, for instance, is endorsing a particular candidate for office as part of evaluating whether or not to vote for him myself. But I think for myself. These independents, being less ‘extremist’, as you imply, are presumably more even-keel in their thinking and aren’t going to let whack jobs on either end of the spectrum dictate which way they vote.

    I’m not suggesting one position or another regarding WND, Joe Farrah, et al, just taking issue of the weight you seem to be giving it.

  3. Bitter says:

    That’s because most people, even independents, don’t do extra research on candidates and causes. They form their favorable or unfavorable opinions based on what they hear. While most independents may not wade into the depths of WND or give it much weight based on what little they know, if they hear about connections to the birthers, then their opinions are being shaped.

    The mere fact that you follow politics or even follow a few key issues closely makes you an exception to the rule. Just because a voter claims to be independent or supports policies that cross the political aisle doesn’t make them an informed voter. It just means that whatever they hear must appeal to more of their independent sensibilities than not.

  4. Sebastian says:

    See Ilya Somin’s work on rational political ignorance for an expanded explanation of what Bitter is talking about:

    http://volokh.com/posts/1201989369.shtml

  5. Todd Steward says:

    I really enjoy the perspective of your blog. Regardless of whether you think the birthers are kooks or not I think that you have to admit that Obama could have avoided the whole issue by simply releasing his full form birth certificate.
    Why? Is it arrogance, to distract attention from other areas?
    Those are the things we should be looking at.

  6. Sebastian says:

    He could have, and he might have a lot of reasons for not doing it. A few things I’ve speculated about is whether there’s a “Religion” box on the certificate, as there used to be. If his mother filled in “None” that could be a problem for him politically. There’s also the possibility that he believes the birthers help the Democrats by driving independent voters away from the GOP. It could also be that he believes the certification from the State of Hawaii ought to be enough, and he doesn’t have anything further to answer for.

  7. Ken says:

    The question isn’t “should we endorse WND,” to which the answer is no. The question is “should we waste energy boycotting it, when there are more important fights against the Left.”

  8. Sebastian says:

    That’s a different argument, I think. I’m not as convinced of the usefulness of a boycott, and I’m also not convinced that the RNC’s use of their e-mail list is a problem. But I think Jon’s concern is a legitimate one.

    • Bitter says:

      I tend to doubt a boycott will really work in this case. But, I do applaud the effort to make it an issue enough so that mainstream groups won’t want to do business with WND. I see the ultimate usefulness of his posts as getting the word out that many people on the right or who sometimes agree with the right don’t want to be associated with that birther crap. If the call for a boycott is any kind of distraction from fighting the left, I think it’s less of a distraction than the birther issue. That’s great that you want to scream to see a personalized version of Obama’s birth certificate, but the reality is that your arguments against the left are better spent on issues like health care, cap and trade, bailouts, overall regulatory overreach, and gun rights.

  9. Weer'd Beard says:

    “The question isn’t “should we endorse WND,” to which the answer is no. The question is “should we waste energy boycotting it, when there are more important fights against the Left.”

    Honestly given the fragmentation inside the Republican party, and no 3rd party to start a revolution in American Politics, I’d actually say whipping the GOP into shape is the far more worthy goal, especially given that the independent voters are running from things like Single-Payer Heathcare, and restriction of gun rights, as Obama and the Democratic controlled congress’ approval numbers crash, I think it’s better to work on a viable alternative to the unpopular government than waste time making them MORE unpopular.

  10. Dave R. says:

    “…26% of voters identify Republican, 33% Democrat, and 39% independent.”

    What’s really interesting is that those numbers are practically reversed for conservative-moderate-liberal idealogical identification. In 2009, Gallup found 40% conservative, 21% liberal, and 35% moderate.* That’s up slightly this year, but not as much as you might think; its a strengthening, not a reversal.

    So there’s a paradox here. I suppose a purist might wonder what some of those respondents mean by “conservative” and “moderate” after electing Obama and a Democrat congress.

    Still, given that conflict between party and idealogical identification, I think attracting the mythical great white independent voter may be more complex than just staking out non-threatening moderate, compromise positions against whatever hard left positions the Democrat leadership advances. In fact, that’s what McCain ran and lost on. And in a less obvious way, Bush and DeLay with big government, high-spending “conservatism,” expanding Medicare and federal education spending, bringing home pork to congressional districts and capturing K street lobbyists. They seriously thought that could give them a permanent majority; instead they lost Congress in 2006.

    I think strong, articulate conservatism has the potential to bring out the base and capture enough moderates to be a strong winner. It worked for Reagan, and for congressional Republicans in 1994. And it hasn’t even been tried recently; Republicans’ most recent losses came under the opposite strategy of courting political moderates.

    Now, none of this is meant to defend WND per se. I realize I’m off on a tangent from our host’s main point, and I don’t mean to impute a position to him he hasn’t staked out. But I think an absolute commitment to moderation is such a losing strategy I wouldn’t want to throw out the hard-liners with the conspiracy theorists.

    * http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/52602

    • Bitter says:

      I think you guys are mistaking hardliners with conspiracy theorists. WND’s front page was about 1/3 birther promotion the other day. This isn’t about saying people who are too conservative aren’t welcome to contribute. This is about people who would rather spend their time ranting about birth certificates and believe it’s all a massive cover-up as opposed to focus on a serious political effort.

  11. Sebastian says:

    Still, given that conflict between party and idealogical identification, I think attracting the mythical great white independent voter may be more complex than just staking out non-threatening moderate, compromise positions against whatever hard left positions the Democrat leadership advances.

    I agree, it’s more than that. I think it’s a mistake to assume that all the independents out there have some kind of mushy, weak moderate ideology. But another common mistake is believing that independents are really just conservatives who aren’t Republicans, or liberals thinking that independents are really just liberals that aren’t Democrats. Some probably fit that mold, but I think most of them just have some mix of beliefs that don’t quite fit neatly into one party or the other, and the rest kind of blow with the political winds because they don’t really follow politics that closely.

    It’s not so much that I think you need an absolute commitment to moderation, but that the fringes don’t help build a coalition all that much.

  12. Sebastian says:

    I think strong, articulate conservatism has the potential to bring out the base and capture enough moderates to be a strong winner. It worked for Reagan, and for congressional Republicans in 1994. And it hasn’t even been tried recently; Republicans’ most recent losses came under the opposite strategy of courting political moderates.

    I think that can be the case, depending on what you mean by strong, articulate conservatism. In the model of Reagan and the Contract with America, I agree with you, especially if the public is in that kind of mood, as they were in 1980, in 1994, and I suspect will be again pretty soon.

    But there’s a lot of talking heads that like to sell conservatives on the notion that they’ve lost because they weren’t conservative enough. There’s some truth there, I think. But there’s a lot of conditions that have to be attached to that statement.

    Take the Contract with America, for example. The point where that went off the rails is when the Republicans tried to impeach Bill Clinton, who, whether the GOP wanted to admit it or not, was a popular President. His approval ratings second term hovered around 60%. It wasn’t so much that the GOP wasn’t conservative enough, but that it was too partisan, and went from being principled opposition to big government, to being a lynch mob out to get a popular president because he had a D next to his name. The public punished that with Republican losses in 1996 through 2000 elections.

    Republicans also overestimated their mandate. At this point in the country’s political history, it’s difficult for either party to make any serious changes without losing support. The GOP, working with Clinton, still managed to pass conservative reforms that a large number of people supported. But agenda items like eliminating the Department of Education, though a worthy goal, were never going to fly with the public.

  13. BadIdeaGuy says:

    BTW, in comment #6 you mentioned that perhaps there is a checkbox for religion on the birth certificate. Alan from Snarkybytes has one from 1963 that does not:
    http://snarkybytes.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/hawaii-birth-certificate-1963.jpg

    I don’t believe that Obama was born in Kenya, but I agree with birthers that there’s a hell of a lot we don’t know about our current President. This post on American Thinker is what I most agree with-
    http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/11/why_the_barack_obama_birth_cer.html

    I’m concerned about all the records that have been sealed for no apparent reason. Transcripts? School records? I tend to think there’s a reason other than foreign birth that may be reason for them to conceal it. Or, just a dead end goose chase while he’s openly and notoriously going about dismantling the US govt and remaking it.

    So maybe I’m a wackjob (there’s a pretty solid probability that I am), but is there no journalist that can ask exactly what he was getting at with that civilian natl security force? (Was it simply the DoD civilian apparatus?) But instead, we get investigative journalists that give blumpkins like this:

    “Why Michelle Obama’s Hair Matters”
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20090902/us_time/09171191914700;_ylt=Amv1MWz5aGW_sPT1HbefwEWs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFpbHMydnRuBHBvcwM0MARzZWMDYWNjb3JkaW9uX21vc3RfcG9wdWxhcgRzbGsDd2h5bWljaGVsbGVv

    I’d contend that one should read Worldnetdaily and view it as WND. But that doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

    But I think you’re right, that those of us who’re intrigued by the dearth certificate or see a lot of dots coming together that form the pattern that this guy has Chavez-esque tendencies and is just getting the team together for training camp to get ready for the regular season (i.e. marxist revolution) probably sound like troofers, so that shouldn’t be the GOP’s platform.

    I see no need to scream and holler about birth certificates because there’s a lot of stuff happening that is shocking when a plain-spoken person explains the facts. Though when you talk about it, people look at you like you just proclaimed yourself to be the 2nd coming.

    I think that’s why I enjoy reading your blog, because I probably agree with you nearly 100% on 2A issues but there’s other stuff that we’re worlds apart on.

    I actually think that like the first Jimmy Carter administration, this one will be tripped up by something like, say, a former Gitmo detainee detonating somewhere on US soil. Which would position the inept GOP to put a 91u1iani or someone like that in 2012.

    Thanks for listening… :-)

  14. BadIdeaGuy says:

    sorry for the link formatting, I can’t seem to do code.

  15. FatWhiteMan says:

    I haven’t weighed in on the birthers on my blog or commenting on others but I must admit, why cannot the President show proof of birth when it is the only job specifically spelled out in the Constitution that requires it?

    The local elementary school flat out refused to let my 4 year old attend preschool until I produced a birth certificate. You have to have birth certificates to be in the military so shouldn’t the commander-in-chief need one as well?

    • Bitter says:

      It has been certified – by a Republican Governor. What demand do you make of anyone running for office? That they personally produce it for you personally? Just consider Linda Lingle to be the government version of your local school’s receptionist or record keeper (whoever was checking the certificate).

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