The media party won by a hair

The media party won by a hair

Can you imagine this election with an evenhanded media? The GOP would still be in control of Congress. Our foreign policy would still be robust, rather than maidenly. Our enemies abroad, like Ahmadinejad and Chirac, would not be having a good day today. And the constant revision of history—such as the “no WMD” slur—would not be crystallizing into received truth even now.

The New Media have not yet beaten the Old. They are making a difference, but the Old Liberal Media have protected their power, at the cost of major alienation from millions of America. Over time, the Old Media will continue to move to the Net, but the political debate will continue. The New Media have a voice, but not as powerful as ABCCBSNBCPBSNPR.

Conservatives in general rely too much on individual brilliance among our leadership. We have done well in finding outstanding and creative leaders, and one failure of the Republicans in Congress was a failure of imagination and vigor, such as we might expect from Reagan, Gingrich and George W. Bush in foreign policy. Liberals build institutions, conservatives wait for individuals to emerge. Over the long run, institutions tend to win.

The media is the core institution of the Left, and it is striking that no Old Media outlet has moved to the Right—or even the Center—in the past fifteen years, while losing credibility and audience. So the Left has protected its existing fortress in the Old Media.

There are many lessons in the GOP setback of 2006. One of them is the constant need for renewal; we have not even carried out the major domestic reforms promised in 2000. I do not blame President Bush for that—he has been fighting a war, and has obviously been preoccupied with that supreme responsibility. The conservative movement still does not have an institutional basis. We have topnotch think-tanks, but no universities. We have talk-radio—thanks to the market—but only Fox as a voice on television. Our most creative thinkers have no natural place to rest and build during the inevitable interregnums.

On the plus side, the Democrats have shown no capacity for growth at all. That is bad for the country but good for the GOP. It is now a time for renewal—not blame—and we must look to the most creative thinkers to craft a message of realistic hope to the country.

James Lewis    11 8 06

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