Politico’s ‘Republican Insiders’ Appear to Know Little About Politics

Politico’s “Political Caucus” is one of my favorite destinations for 2016 political coverage. It’s a running series of weekly interviews with a fixed roster of political “insiders” who offer their allegedly unguarded takes on the 2016 election from behind the protective shield of anonymity. I love it because, despite the promise of juicy details from behind the curtain, reading it will teach you nothing about the way politics works or how the presidential campaigns are doing. The Political Caucus does, however, stands a stark and unassailable case that…

How Scammer Consultants Cannibalized the Tea Party Movement

As we watch the Republican Party tear itself to shreds over Donald Trump, perhaps it’s time to take note of another conservative political phenomenon that the GOP nominee has utterly eclipsed: the Tea Party. The Tea Party movement is pretty much dead now, but it didn’t die a natural death. It was murdered—and it was an inside job. In a half decade, the spontaneous uprising that shook official Washington degenerated into a form of pyramid scheme that transferred tens of millions of dollars from rural,…

Evan McMullin’s Presidential Run Could Potentially Blow Up the Republican Party

Ever since this morning, political obsessives have been scrambling to find out any bit of information they can on Evan McMullin, a little-known former CIA officer who has decided to run for president on a platform vaguely similar to the one that Mitt Romney ran on in 2012. With no name recognition and no executive experience, there is no chance that McMullin could win. But that isn’t the point of the exercise. The McMullin candidacy, which is being pushed by the remnant of the NeverTrump…

The Conservative Echo Chamber Is Making the Right Intellectually Deaf

One of the more interesting developments since the emergence of the web as a mass medium is the establishment of a conservative media presence. Prior to the internet, there were basically no large-audience right-leaning media operations aside from a few talk radio programs. Since the 1996 establishment of Fox News and the popularization of the web, it has now become possible for a conservatively inclined people to consume all kinds of news and opinion catering to their specific tastes and viewpoints. Many right-leaning people have…

Do Political Campaign Ads Actually Work? Research Suggests Not Really

Ever since Spiro Agnew’s 1970 speech blasting “nattering nabobs of negativism” in the media, attacking the political neutrality of the mainstream press has been a frequent activity of conservatives. By and large, however, the right-wing response to the media unfairness has been merely to complain about the situation rather than do something about it. Instead of buying, boosting, or starting mainstream media outlets, the primary response of conservatives to counter perceived bias against them in the press has been to purchase television, radio, and direct…

The Republican Industrial Complex Has Turned Missteps Into Millions

Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, was famously criticized for his ability to convince others to believe anything he said through a combination of hyperbole and bravado. One Apple employee called the effect a “reality distortion field” in 1981 and the term persisted ever since. It’s quite clear by now that conservative philanthropists and grassroots donors have been living in a reality distortion field as well, the creation of a cadre of political consultants who have failed repeatedly at their jobs and yet manage…

Donald Trump Is the Candidate Conservative Intellectuals Conditioned Their Base to Want

It’s been said that societies elect the governments they deserve. That’s certainly the case with the American Right and Donald Trump. In spite of this, many Republicans have been beside themselves about the man for the past 12 months. According to his critics, the former reality-TV star is a gross departure from the conservative tradition. They couldn’t be more wrong. One group of Trump disparagers were so discontented with their future nominee that they vowed to found their own rump organization, the Renegade Party, in…

The Trump Victory Proves the GOP Is Fundamentally Broken

If 2012 was the presidential election in which data-driven journalism really came into its own, the 2016 Republican nomination contest has been the one in which the conventional wisdom has continually been shattered. Besides driving Republican officials to distraction, Donald Trump has been the bane of journalists from data geeks like Nate Silver and the New York Times’s Nate Cohn to more old school analysts like Ron Brownstein of National Journal. The former television star’s unorthodox background and brash demeanor has upended the conventional wisdom…

The Rise of Irreligion is the GOP’s Real Demographic Crisis

In the past several years, many trees have been felled and pixels electrocuted in the service of discussion about the impact of Hispanics on the American electorate. No one knows for sure which way they’ll vote in the future but everyone is interested in discussing it. Curiously, though, an even larger political shift is taking place yet receiving almost no attention whatsoever from political reporters—the emergence of post-Christian America. Judging solely from the rhetoric and actions of the Republican presidential candidates this cycle, you would be…

Donald Trump and the Anti-Libertarian Moment

It hasn’t even been a year and a half since journalist Robert Draper wondered at length in the New York Times Magazine whether America was about to begin a “libertarian moment.” The question seems downright quaint just days before the first actual votes are cast in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Rand Paul, the man whom Draper and many others anointed as the leader of the revolution, has been languishing in also-ran territory for a solid year in local and national surveys….