On July 28, 2009, the demise of Glenn Beck's career as a Fox News host began when he announced on Fox & Friends that President Obama was a “racist” and that, despite being raised by a white mother and his white grandparents, the new president had a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” The advertising boycott sparked by that shockingly hateful statement soon robbed Beck of most of his commercial supporters. In 2011, Fox News, unable to turn his ratings into revenue, let Beck go.
In 2009, Beck appeared to be an outlier within the right-wing media, using the type of incendiary, race-baiting language that even many Obama-hating pundits considered to be out of bounds. But fast-forward to 2013, and specifically fast-forward to the right-wing media reaction to the conclusion of the George Zimmerman trial, as well as Obama's reaction to it, and it seems clear that Beck's comments have been mainstreamed within the conservative movement.
Obama hates whites? He's a racist? He's trying to start a race war? Today, more and more conservative voices in the media chorus seem entirely comfortable making those reckless allegations.
And somewhere the authors of the Republican National Committee's "autopsy" report must be shaking their heads.
You'll recall that the in-depth, and at times startlingly frank, analysis of the GOP's poor showing in 2012 repeatedly stressed that for the party to compete in national elections in coming years, it must become more inclusive. And specifically, the Republican Party had to find a way to appeal to minority voters, including blacks. Plagued by what the Republican authors said was a voter perception of the GOP as being a party of rigid, out of touch ideologues, the party had to embrace new kinds of voters.
“We know we have problems; we've identified them, and we're implementing the solutions to fix them,” RNC chairman Reince Priebus said at the time of the 97-page report's release in March. He warned that “focus groups described our party as narrow minded, out of touch and ” stuff old men." The party pledged to spend $10 million on outreach to minority groups.
Four months later though, and nearly every corner of the right-wing media landscape is broadcasting the same, hateful message that Beck first enunciated four years ago: America's first black president is a racist who despises whites. It's hard to see how the GOP Noise Machine's angry, divisive memo is going to do anything but drive even more minority voters away from the party.
I realize the so-called autopsy was written for the official apparatus of the Republican Party, and advised what its members should do to ensure change. The report didn't address the content of the influential conservative press, nor the public role in plays in defining the party. But the hard truth is Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media effectively speak for the GOP. Especially with the party not longer in power inside Washington, D.C, that media own the GOP's messaging machine. So if the GOP has any hope of changing the way it's perceived, its media allies must also change. There's simply no indication that's going to happen.
Note the contrast between the advice the RNC report offered up and what the far-right rhetoric has been like in recent days:
Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country.
We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too.
The Republican Party must focus its efforts to earn new supporters and voters in the following demographic communities: Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Indian Americans, Native Americans, women, and youth.
The authors of the RNC's autopsy always faced a Herculean task in terms of changing how minorities perceive the GOP. But to be saddled with a right-wing media industry that now almost gleefully wallows in offensive race baiting rhetoric?
That will render useless any GOP minority outreach.