As I said earlier, I watched the election results on all of the three big cable networks, going back and forth. I actually thought that FOX succeeded in doing a quality, professional job overall (and in having the evening’s most entertaining spectacle).
But I’d like to focus for a moment on a statement made by Bill O’Reilly that, I have to say, mirrors much of what I’ve heard over the past several months from various right leaning politicians, pundits, contributors and commenters – and is fast becoming cliched post-election fodder, as Conor points out. And after taking a look at it, I’m going to ask Republicans to submit to a little private, internal thought experiment – one that will focus on politics, not policy.
This is the transcript of what he said:
“It’s a changing country. The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America any more. And there are 50% of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it and he ran on it. And, whereby twenty years ago, President Obama would have been roundly defeated by an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney. The white establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You are going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama, overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?”
In a development that will come as a surprise to anyone that has lived in a sensory deprivation tank for the past three decades, Democrats are calling O’Reilly’s statement racist and sexist. And although I do not actually believe that he meant to say that blacks, hispanics and women vote the way they do because they’re parasites and white people vote the way they do because they’re not, I have to say it’s a little too easy to see why so many people are hearing it that way.
But zoom out with me for a moment, because I think that O’Reilly’s actual intention and the subsequent backlash are – for the purposes of this exercise – unimportant.
How Republicans and conservative pundits react to this type of constantly occurring mini-brouhaha, both internally and externally, is a far more interesting question to me – and it’s one which I believe will ultimately go a long way to showing whether or not a GOP victory in 2016 is feasible amidst the demographic sea change that O’Reilly himself pointed out.
If you are a vocal Republican, I think there are essentially three ways you might realistically react to the criticism that is being levied against O’Reilly. As you read them, I’d like you to assume that none of the three are either “right” or “wrong,” but to still recognize that each carries its own electoral consequences. They are as follows:
Response #1: Yes, O’Reilly is exactly right. Blacks, Latinos and women like sucking at government’s teat; they just want a bunch of free stuff handed to them. It was so much better back when the white establishment ran everything. (Probability of Being Said to Others: Low)
Response #2: [Insert here some argument where you use sentence diagramming to show that O’Reilly never said anything that anyone could possibly find objectionable, regardless of how it sounds.] Not artfully stated, and not at all saying what Response #1 says, but once you diagram the sentence properly it is entirely true. Minorities and women should quit their whining. Those people hear dog whistles everywhere. (Probability of Being Said to Others: High)
Response #3: My goodness, I have to admit that sounded terrible. I really hope that Bill didn’t mean it the way it sounds, but in either case he needs to walk that back and clarify it – and we conservatives need to push him to do so. Then we can move on and talk about the general societal issues of entitlement spending, where O’Reilly’s observation is correct. (Probability of Being Said to Others: Low)
[Obviously, the “probabilities” above being my own best Dean Chambers-like guess]
My guess is that although there are certainly other possible responses, the vast majority of Republicans respond to these types of racial/gender peccadillos in one of these three ways. Again, I am not here to advocate that any of these answers is more or less truthful. I simply wish to make this political observation:
If high-visibility Republicans and conservative pundits continue to respond predominantly with either Response #1 or Response #2, and if the white male vote continues to shrink as a percentage of the overall vote, then Republicans can kiss 2016 and all of the foreseeable subsequent national elections goodbye.
Unfortunately for the GOP, Response #1 and Response #2 have two things going for them that Response #3 does not: They are far more fun (and far easier) for conservative pundits to say/write, and they draw far more viewers/listeners/page hits. Response #3 just isn’t what the media machine is going to reflexively want to do. But despite what the media machine wants, the only way Republicans continue as a dominant player in this next century is if they embrace Response #3. That is a very difficult circle that the GOP is going to need to figure out how to square.
Look, eventually, you reach a point where “because it pisses off liberals” ceases to be its own reward – where approaching things with that attitude gets in the way of your being politically relevant. I believe that yesterday’s results proved that we are now officially past that point.