It wasn't exactly Bruce Springsteen appearing on the covers of Time and Newsweek on the same day in 1975, but Thursday Politico and Business Insider told us simultaneously that Tucker Carlson is the hottest person in right-wing politics, and that he really could be president, or at least the Republican presidential nominee, someday soon.
Why are we hearing this now? Why two stories on the same day?
From the Politico story:
Republican strategists, conservative commentators, and former Trump campaign and administration officials are buzzing about Carlson as the next-generation leader of Donald Trump’s movement — with many believing he would be an immediate frontrunner in a Republican primary....
“Let me put it this way: If Biden wins and Tucker decided to run, he’d be the nominee,” said Sam Nunberg, a former top political aide to Trump who knows Carlson.
[Carlson]'s a ... longtime friend of the one and only Roger Stone, the GOP provocateur and felon who probably had more to do with nudging Trump's political ambitions into reality than anyone else....
Stone and Carlson have been close for more than a decade, according to former Carlson colleagues.
After he started The Daily Caller, Carlson enlisted Stone to write occasionally under the title "Daily Caller Men's Fashion Editor," a playful dig at the New York gossip class and homage to Stone's fashion sense....
The Stone-Carlson relationship grew more serious during the Trump era as congressional and federal investigators examined the longtime political adviser to the president over his public boasts that he'd spoken with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about the stolen emails surfacing during the 2016 campaign to damage Hillary Clinton.
Before his arrest, in early 2019, Carlson gave Stone valuable airtime to make his case. Then after a Washington, DC, jury convicted Stone, in November, of lying to Congress and witness tampering, Carlson directly asked Trump to pardon Stone.
All of Carlson's Stone coverage hasn't gone without notice. Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple accused Carlson in February of being a "shill" for the longtime GOP operative, and wrote that Carlson was effectively running a campaign to get Stone's conviction thrown out.
The Politico story adds:
In 2012, Nunberg said Republican operative Roger Stone unsuccessfully pushed Carlson to run on the Libertarian ticket. Stone told POLITICO in an email that “[i]t is not inconceivable that I may have raised it in jest or in passing as repartee, but have no memory of that.”
It might not be Stone who's stirring the pot -- Carlson's agent and publicist might be working the media to sell the notion that Carlson, with his escalating ratings, might be too important to fire, if Fox is considering termination in response to advertiser boycotts. Or Carlson might really be serious about running -- it's clear that the contest for the 2024 GOP nomination is already under way, with Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and others already engaged in a race to the wingnut bottom on social media and elsewhere.
But the implication of the two stories is that even as America rejects the racial divisiveness of Donald Trump, we might just leap right back into the white supremacist cesspool in the 2024 presidential race -- yes, the same country where even a majority of white Americans support Black Lives Matter and more Americans want an increase in immigration than a decrease.
The Politico story, in particular, is appallingly neutral about Carlson's most notorious moments of racism, considering them only as a case study in effective career management:
As Republicans across the country and in Congress have expressed newfound openness to reforming the police and taking down Confederate monuments in the wake of protests, Carlson has denounced the Black Lives Matter movement and derided Republicans who have gone along with it.
“This may be a lot of things, this moment we are living through. But it is definitely not about black lives, and remember that when they come for you,” Mr. Carlson said in one 25-minute monologue on June 8 that has over 5.4 million views on YouTube. That lost him high-profile advertisers, including Disney, Papa John’s and T-Mobile, whose chief executive tweeted, “Bye-bye."
Carlson faced a similar advertiser exodus in 2018 after saying that immigrants make "our own country poorer and dirtier and more divided.”
Carlson emerged from the backlash apparently unchastened.
“The angry children you watched set fire to Wendy's and topple statues and scream at you on television day after day are truly and utterly stupid,” he said on his show last week. And he has repeatedly pushed back on the idea that racism is systemic in the country. “Overall, this is the least racist country in the history of the world,” he said a few days earlier. “Millions of Africans want to move here. Many already have. Our last president was black. What are you talking about?”
His audience has rewarded him with blockbuster ratings.
Of course, Carlson could win even a country trying to overcome racism for the same reasons that Trump could win in November: a Republican Party and Supreme Court obsessed with suppressing the Democratic vote, as well as a mainstream media that's always willing to pretend that "nice" right-wing extremists aren't really beyond the pale. That's how we got Trump. It's why Roger Stone is still a presence in our politics and not a pariah, even with several felony convictions. It's why we shouldn't assume Carlson can't win.
Posted with permission from No More Mr. Nice Blog