One of the biggest problems I think the media has is that they’re entirely out of touch with the common man. So out of touch, in fact, that they have no idea how out of touch they are. They tell us what “Joe Sixpack” is thinking, even if it disagrees with what the Joes are telling pollsters. They fail to understand the real-world implications of economic policy decisions, instead reporting only the political dimensions of these decisions. And they insist upon the idea that all rural Americans are church-lovers and upstanding people, while urbanites are freaky heathens who don’t understand “Real” America. And that these stereotypes are the ultimate in elitist condescension is perhaps the pinnacle of ironic cluelessness. By pretending to understand “Red America,” they pay it the ultimate insult.
But they don’t want to be out of touch. They remember their relatively humble roots, and feel guilty about their more elitist tendencies. Mass media has made them millionaires, with fame beyond their earlier imagination. And so the whole Republican mystic of “Rural America” appeals to them. They like the “values” crowd. The mom & pops of “Real America”. Of course all this is a pile of shit, as the Republicans have been the party of Big Money ever since they won that whole abolition issue. And that’s what drives them. They may emphasize values and church and all that good wholesome stuff, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the Benjamins (sorry, I’ve read that phrase a few times recently, and thought I’d hippen-up my blog with such cool jargon).
Driving Tom DeLay
And via Think Progress, this leads us to Chris Matthews’ recent slobber-job on Future Convict Tom DeLay. I’ll repeat the question, as it’s so damn funny:
MATTHEWS: Tom DeLay, you are not in this business for the money. You live modestly. You commute back and forth from Washington to Houston, Texas. Why? What drives you every day?
Now here’s the thing. I have no idea if Chris Matthews is a Republican. I have very very few doubts that he didn’t vote for Bush in the last election, but there’s always that possibility that he normally votes Dem. I just don’t know.
And part of the thing with many of these elitist media-types is that they really do associate more with the Dem platform. They don’t want a church-state or an abortion ban. They support anti-poverty programs and are not isolationists or raving warhawks (though war is certainly excellent for their business). And while they do agree with the GOP’s tax policy, they’d probably feel guilty using that as their basis for a vote. Overall, I strongly suspect that most of them consider themselves to be relatively liberal. They’re wrong about that, of course; but that’s probably the way they like to see themselves. As moderate liberals, constantly under assault by both the raving lunatic liberals like Michael Moore and Howard Dean, as well as by moderate and far-right conservatives. Again, this is a pile of dooky, as they’re really moderates who lean slightly to the right (depending on the issue), but they probably like to think of themselves as moderate liberals.
But they certainly don’t like Dem politicians (who are considered either wishy-washy sell-outs like Gore and Kerry, or extremist firebrands like Dean), and certainly do love them some Repub politicians, and that’s what we see from Matthews now. Because he certainly is clueless on this one. Sure, it’s possible he’s trying to be deceitful, but I don’t believe it. There are a lot of bad defenses of Tom DeLay, but the one Matthews has picked is one of the worst. Because all we need do to explode it is quote the stuff that Think Progress did. We just quote how the “king of campaign fund-raising” was living the highlife that his Congressman’s salary couldn’t possibly afford.
And beyond that, Matthews is missing the entire point of the scandal. The fact that Tom DeLay was living like a millionaire isn’t a small sub-story, that’s a big part of the whole fucking deal. That’s part of the scandal. That this “public servant” was so obviously abusing the system for his own personal benefit.
Defense by Absurdity
But again, it’s the absurdity of Matthew’s defense that proves how earnest he is. Because it’s just plain stupid and flies in the face of all the facts. You can scream “Democrat witch-hunt”, or “everybody’s doing it”, or any number of defenses. But the idea that DeLay is just some humble public servant getting caught-up in something bigger than himself is simply ridiculous and an insult. There’s just no way that Matthews would be doing this if he didn’t really believe it to be true. And of course he believes it. It makes him feel better about his own life. Media elites like him LOVE the GOP rural mystic, and having a Texan bug killer like DeLay is all part of that. And while they don’t agree with the GOP agenda, they do like to console themselves that the GOP are good, honest people who you can trust. This is Chris Matthews’ concession to the real world he once lived in.
And the dumbest thing about it is that IT’S EXACTLY WHAT YOU’D EXPECT. I mean honestly, who is more likely to abuse their position of authority? A richie-rich Kennedy or Kerry who can easily afford their own yachts and vacations, or an ex-bugman from a small Texas town? Even the Bushies have to work on their fortune more than Kennedy or Kerry do (with the term “work” used in its loosest sense). And so it’s just natural that an important Congressman from a modest background would abuse his power and have lots of lobbyist-paid vacations and meals. That’s all part of the perks. Because he’s not getting rich on his salary. Sure, he’s doing far better than most of us. But just think about the people he visits with regularly: the Big Money GOP donors. He sees the highlife they live, and wants a piece of that action. It all makes sense.
That isn’t to argue that this is somehow proof of DeLay’s corruption; but it certainly makes a helleva lot more sense than Matthews’ nonsense. Yes, DeLay comes from a humble background, and now he’s taking advantage of his situation to make it better. What’s so hard to understand about that? But you have to remember that Matthews is a millionaire and makes far more than DeLay or any other of the important politicians that Matthews covers (or at least, makes more legitimately (with “legitimately” defined in its loosest sense)). And so that must be a weird switcheroo. Sure, these people are very powerful and famous, but media-types like Matthews are far better paid and even more famous. Matthews easily makes more in one year than a Congressman makes after five elections. And he’s got the fancy house in Nantucket, while DeLay still lives in Sugarland (I honestly don’t know where DeLay lives, but always liked the name Sugarland).
But again, there is more to this than Matthews wanting to defend DeLay. He’s defending his belief system; his reality. He must believe that Red State people are better than everyone else, and that the common man has some damn good things about it. Because deep down, he knows that he doesn’t earn his money honestly, like a Real American; so it heartens him to know that there are good, honest people out there who he can sort of reach out to. And he also must believe that GOP leadership types are good honest people who put in an honest day’s work. And while he might like the agenda of the politically-driven, self-serving Democrats, he’s glad to know there are ideologically-pure Republicans out there doing God’s work.
He could have picked any defense of DeLay, and maybe even found a good one somehow; but he picked the one that made the most sense to him: That Tom DeLay is a Real Man. Honest, wholesome, pure at heart. And while a multi-millionaire like Chris Matthews has a hard time staying in touch with the common man, he’s sure that Tom DeLay is such a person; and that warms the cockles of his heart in only the way that his rare wines and gourmet food can. He might be a Real American no longer, but he’s glad to associate with honest folk like Tom DeLay; the common-man who’s only aim is to serve his country.