There have been reams of analysis over why Mitt Romney's campaign seems to be fading in the stretch, and we're no exception. I could list many, going back a year to when he said "corporations are people, too" to his off-the-cuff "I don't care about poor people" to his "I like to fire people" to his most recent 47 percent comments.
You could argue that Mitt Romney's own statements are enough to disqualify him from being president. But lately, I've seen another argument floating around that warrants discussion, too. George Zornick, writing for The Nation, framed it this way:
Romney seems to have outsourced a substantial part of his communications operation and opposition research to right-wing blogs—and keeps getting burned for it. Will he learn to stop?
Media Matters published an in-depth study of how closely Romney's campaign tracks with right-wing blog memes just after The Atlantic's Elspeth Reeve took a look at four primary Romney campaign themes and tied them back to right-wing blogs and blog comments.
Reeve makes the case that Romney is exactly the candidate conservatives wanted, and that candidate is losing the election.
There's a pattern emerging to Mitt Romney's worst gaffes: his biggest political missteps come whenever he repeats something the conservative opinion complex has already repeated endlessly. Instead of being the candidate that conservative bloggers feared as a moderate, he's been exactly the candidate they wanted. And he's losing. The most recent example, of course, is Romney's comment to donors that 47 percent of Americans are voting for President Obama because they're getting a government handout -- which has been a meme on conservative blogs for months. In December 2011, RedState editor Erick Erickson, who is the creator of that meme, wrote a widely-noted post titled "Mitt Romney as the Nominee: Conservatism Dies and Barack Obama Wins." He predicted Romney's candidacy would be "an utter disaster for conservatives" because Romney was "a guy who keeps selling out the very principles conservatives claim to hold dear" and who won't "seriously take conservatives seriously." If the polls don't change in the next 49 days, Erickson will have been only half right. Obama will have won, but not because Romney ran as a moderate. It will be in part because he adopted conservative bloggers' memes as critical parts of his campaign message.
Media Matters' analysis includes this indictment:
But in the past, when national candidates needed to learn a political language they sought out experts in the field, and respected opinion-makers. They didn't rely on half-witted bloggers, cable TV wake-up personalities, and talk show hosts who push sludge in the form of 'debate.' (i.e. Obama's allegiance is to the Quran!)
I think this is a dangerous argument to make as broadly as it has been made. Possibly my perspective might come from the fact that someone on the right might view me as a "half-witted blogger" and discount anything I might write as unworthy of consideration, so there might be a bit of a self-serving reaction there. Take it for what you will.
My problem with the assertion that Romney is spewing right-wing memes originated by "half-witted bloggers" is that it assumes those ideas began with bloggers. As you can see from the round-robin of email published last week between Foster Friess, James O'Keefe, and John Fund, the right wing message machine tightly integrated with think tanks, high-profile journalists, and the money boys who fund them.
There is absolutely no daylight between Fox News and any online group. In fact, Fox News routinely uses people from right-wing web sites as "commentators," right alongside their think tank folks and of course, the shadow Romney campaign advisors. It's a symbiotic relationship which blends online with broadcast with the man-on-the-street opinionators. All of this is true.
This is very different than the structures on the left. Lefty bloggers aren't funded by anyone but their readers. Cue request for donations.
Thank you. We appreciate you digging deep for that.
Lefties don't have the deep funding pockets that the right does. Want to put a story out about SEIU playing fast and loose with voting by busing brown and black folks to the polls? No problem, Foster Friess is ready and waiting to write the check. Are you a failed journalist with a horrible reputation who also happens to be a right-wing echo machine? No worries, Foster will take care of you, too.
Want to start up a blog and get some ads going on it? No worries, the wingers will buy ads on your site for winger candidates and pay premium rates as long as you also let them buy ads for the latest winger books and put those on your site too. If you actually read those winger books and review them, even better. If you get some traction, they'll even elevate your work and buy more ads at higher rates, and if you're willing to ally with like-minded bloggers, they'll even make you into a "national bloggers' club" and pay big bucks for you to keep that machine going. No integrity is required, just the ability to spew a lot of noise into the blogosphere without fact or much else to back it up.
This is how they build the echo chamber on the right. The left has no such infrastructure.
When analysts decide the Romney campaign is failing because they're echoing themes developed online at conservative blogs without paying attention to the money circle, it minimizes those of us out here on the left who aren't half-witted and survive because we actually have something worth reading. That's the problem I have with this indictment of the online right as the catalyst for failure. If you ignore how these blogs are funded and continue to survive while blaming them for Romney's failure, you're missing the real story.
This is really the story: Romney is failing because his message, funded and amplified by billionaires with an agenda, does not work with people who are less than "true believers." There are only a few billionaires. There are many more people who actually don't hate government and don't think they're victims.
It's not the blogs. It's the billionaires. Romney is doomed because he represents the people paying for and approving those messages. He believes them just like Foster Friess believes them, and he doesn't need "half-witted bloggers" to create that message. They need only amplify it.