Many conservatives were shocked — not "Casablanca" shocked, but actually, honestly shocked — to lose the 2012 presidential election.
Just as I predicted they would be.
Back in mid-September, I wrote the following:
Unfortunately, there's little sense hard-core conservatives and
liberals are even watching the same content, or braced for disappointing
Conservative icon Rush Limbaugh, for example, has dismissed
recent polls showing President Obama moving further ahead, painting them
as an attempt to depress the GOP base. He has even spoken about
Republican Mitt Romney potentially winning in a "landslide."
Those following the data — such as Nate Silver's
fivethirtyeight.com, whose forecasting was remarkably accurate in 2008
— know that while the national popular vote remains extremely close,
the electoral-college math is becoming much more challenging to the
Republicans. With huge states like California and New York firmly in the
Democratic column, Romney needs numerous things to break his way in
order to win. (At presstime, Silver put the likelihood of Obama winning,
vs. Romney's percentage, at nearly 4-1.)
Are people on the fringes — particularly those whose media
diet seldom includes venturing beyond comfortable echo chambers —
aware of such formulations? And do the media egging on supporters, right
or left, really have any incentive to give their audience the full
story — or permission to stop hanging on the campaign's every nuance?
In this, I take no credit for being a political genius, but merely being able to read and do math. Yet as many have noted — including moderate conservative voices, like David Frum — conservatives haven't necessarily been well-served by conservative media, at least in terms of being fully informed as to how the election was likely to turn out.
Indeed, New York Times columnist David Carr essentially lauded Fox for acknowledging reality on election night, which is true, perhaps, but really ought to be the bare minimum for something that has "news" right there in its name.
In terms of any change, though, there's an inherent problem: Conservative media also couches itself as existing in part because the mainstream media is untrustworthy. Moreover, it wraps itself in protective armor that says any criticism from the so-called liberal media should be discounted or ignored. Hence, someone like me becomes a "vile Fox News hater," in the words of Bill O'Reilly, because I have questioned the network's practices. As such, nothing I say about them is to be taken seriously.
It's a remarkable shield against any sort of outside analysis. So while there's a lot of talk about Republicans engaging in soul-searching, there's precious little evidence their preferred media outlets will do the same. Indeed, Rush Limbaugh dismissed the notion he might in any way be responsible for creating an environment that turned out badly for the GOP, proving it by noting the suggestion was coming from Democrats. (The very fact I found this link on mediamatters.org is no doubt further ammunition.)
But the answer to that is simple: Limbaugh is good copy. He's a big target. And a lot of people listen to him.
If the Republicans are going to adapt, in other words, they're going to have to mostly do it alone. Because while they might not have liked the outcome of the last two presidential elections, for like-minded media, the whole situation is working out just fine.