by Doctor Science
Tom Edsall at the NY Times asks Can Republicans Change Their Spots? after the losses of the 2012 election.
The problem that faces business leaders pressing for reform is not just the normal reluctance of a political party to change. Instead, it is the fact that much of the Republican electorate, as presently constructed, is profoundly committed — morally and ideologically — to “traditional values.” You’re asking groups of people to change who were brought together by their resistance to change. Their opposition to change is why they are Republicans.But as slactivist (Fred Clark) has been pointing out, conservatives are quite capable of changing their minds on their core issues: evangelicals used to be favor of contraception and they weren't initially opposed to Roe v. Wade.
Fred keeps being shocked, not that conservative evangelicals have changed their minds, but that they keep claiming that they *haven't* -- and keep re-writing history and their own memories to reflect that. We have always been at war with Eastasia, in fact.
I don't know who made this poster, but it looks like something from LibertyManiacs.
Fred assumes that the people who are doing this are lying: they lived through the history they're re-writing, they must know it wasn't like that. I think he's overlooking a lot of research showing how much memory re-writing is a normal human process. One thing I think Orwell got wrong is how easy this is for the leaders of the Inner Party as well as the Proles. That is, the Inner Party thinks we've always been at war with Eastasia, too. Objective truth doesn't stand a chance when it's up against self-image.
The greatest weapon forward-thinking Republicans have, in theory, is their version of Minitrue: News Corp, which includes both Fox News (the prolefeed) and the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ is effectively the Inner Party organ, where the American business community gets its information and opinions.
If the conservative movement continues on its downward trajectory, the American business community, which has the most to lose from Republican failure, will be the key force arguing for moderation.This will only happen IMHO if Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes agree. If they do, then I think they could get Republicans to change -- not by saying "change", of course, but by staking out a new position and saying over and over again that it's what they believed all along. "We have always been worried about global warming", "we have always wanted universal health care" -- I don't see why these should be any more difficult than "we have always been opposed to abortion" or "we have always liked MLK".
Immediately after the November election, I had some hope that Murdoch and his
orcs associates would see the need for the Republican Party to adapt to long-term demographic reality, and would fire up Minitrue to start making it so.
One of the most discouraging recent developments, then, is what James Fallows calls WSJ harmonization:
that the WSJ's news coverage, which for decades has seemed independent from the Journal's editorial pages, is increasingly conforming with the editorial line. My China-beat buddies will recognize the term "harmonization" for this reining-in of unauthorized views.When I first started reading the WSJ in 1980, I was startled to discover that the reporting was first-rate, objective, and not infrequently compatible with liberal interpretations, even while the editorial pages were slightly to the right of Attila the Hun. There was obviously a firewall in place to let reporters work without fear or favor from editorial, and the result was really solid, reliable reporting -- presumably because that's what the hard-headed businesspeople readers wanted.
Fallows is now documenting changes suggesting:
•Hypothesis: Under the ownership of Rupert Murdoch and the editorship of Robert Thomson, the Journal is deliberately bringing its news operations into closer alignment with its editorial views.This is very worrying, because it suggests that not even Murdoch, Ailes, et al., are alive to the political realities. As Paul Krugman said about Mitt Romney's 47% speech, this is what happens when the Inner Party believes the prolefeed. As the WSJ is "harmonized" with Fox News, it will become harder for the business community to chart a course away from Republican Party orthodoxy, and to realize that maybe it's time to have always had a different approach to Eastasia.
•Sub-hypothesis: You don't see this shift in the line-by-line content of the stories themselves but rather in the headlines, subheads, and placement of the stories in the paper. That is, we're looking at editors' work rather than reporters'.