Look upon this Quinnipiac poll, O ye mighty, and despair. Asked which national news network they trusted most, 29% of voters polled answered Fox News. That gave Fox a plurality of most-trusted responses, ahead of CNN (22%) and ABC and NBC (10% apiece.) Before we shut down democracy and enter the market for a benevolent dictator, though, we should consider what this poll really tells us.
In troubled times, it’s easy for an angry majority to trample the rights of a disenfranchised minority. Here’s how troubled our times are: we’re even trying to trample heavily franchised minorities, such as Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana, who owns a bunch of UPS and Subway stores that made him $6.3 million in 2010. Yesterday morning, Fleming assured MSNBC that $6 million a year isn’t that much, since after he pays his 500 employees, forks over the rent for his locations and otherwise sees to his overhead, “my net income—the amount that I have to reinvest in my business and feed my family—is more like $600,000 of that $6.3 million. And so by the time I feed my family I have maybe $400,000 left over.” Don’t hang up, but we’re going to do some math after the jump.
Because I need to be able to go to sleep, I watch MSNBC as little as possible. My facade of openminded centrism is flimsy enough without the voice of Keith Olbermann in my head, analyzing politics in the exact same way he analyzed sports. I therefore barely understand who Ed Schultz is. He appears to be a liberal—sorry, “progressive”—iteration of Rush Limbaugh: a jolly but vaguely menacing fat man who yells the truth at you, assuming you already know everything that’s true. He is also the man who, on his Tuesday show, referred to conservative commentator Laura Ingraham as a “right-wing slut.” For the purposes of the discussion to follow, I ask you to accept two premises:
1) She is pretty tasty.
2) This is worse for Ed Schultz than it would have been for Rush Limbaugh.
He’s been wrong before, but when David Brooks says you’re a nationwide movement, you’re either Soccer Moms in the 2004 general election or a real thing. In Monday’s New York Times, Brooks alleges that the Tea Party movement is the latter. After opening with his usual overview of the prevailing sociopolitical winds for the last thirty to 100 years, he gets to the money shot. “Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year,” he writes. For the moment, Brooks has declined to enumerate which instruments he uses to measure the popularity of ideas, but he at least sounds right. “The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise,” he says. “The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.” Those committed to responsible argument will object to Brooks’s questionable use of the word so, which makes his theory the cause of his evidence, but as and statements his list still draws an unsettling connection. When Brooks points out that the Tea Partiers are defined by what they are against, and that most of what they are against can be grouped under “the concentrated power of the educated class,” he introduces a framework as useful as it is terrifying.