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Political and Media Gravitation

America gets chopped up by politicians and media.

This post is not based on data. It might could be, but it would have taken much longer to write, and it wouldn’t be more salient if it were. It’s true regardless of if the facts are a little bit off. This disclaimer is mainly to avoid taking anything here as data and rather focus on the concept.

Let’s start with a picture of how I see the political landscape. Again, it’s probably a bit different than this in reality, and there are some data that could clarify the picture somewhat, but the fact is that there’s no source for the actual picture. We live in Plato’s Cave, only ever seeing some shadow of what the actual body looks like.

A curve starts at lower left, rises to a hump, keeps rising to a second, and falls down to lower right. The curve colorized to match a conservative-to-liberal, red-to-blue scheme. Most people and voters would fall toward the middle.

In the first picture, we see a kind of funky bell-curve. As with this type of chart, the vertical axis shows how many people fall at each spot along the horizontal axis. The horizontal axis shows the conservative–liberal position. Most people still fall somewhere in the middle, but there’s a bit of lumpiness to the bell. Where does that lumpiness come from? Shouldn’t parties be shifting their policies and practices to smooth things out? Cue another picture.

Same as previous image, with additions: a three-hump curve representing the media. First, middle-sized hump for conservative media, second big hump for mainstream media, and third hump, the smallest, for liberal media.

Same picture, but with a second curve (in green) showing the media spread and three singularities of the media. This is a simplification, as is the conservative–liberal axis itself, but it helps to understand all the same. The media does have an influence on the electorate, for the same reason that most people are members or at least sympathetic to the religion they were raised in.

If you feel comfortable with your media, you are being fed particular types of stories about heavy subjects like economy, crime, immigration. If you haven’t looked around the internet, it’s a big fucking place. It’s a big old world. There’s too much data for anyone to really comprehend. Whatever selection of stories you read, hear about, it’s a tiny sample. You’re missing a lot of stuff, some of which is more important than what you’re seeing.

The media companies know this. They couldn’t give you all the stories you should see, but they can give you packages of slick content meant to do one of a few things, like sell you stuff or push politicians one way or another. The conservative media is all-in on that mission, where most other media sources feel at least some allegiance to reality even while they’ll gladly push views and products.

But that’s not the whole story, so let’s look at a third picture.

Same as first image, with additions: a shrunken version of the original curve, with three wedges filling in the space beneath the curve. The first, conservative wedge fans out to the left and falls left on its right side. The second, a liberal wedge, fans outward on both sides, covering the middle. The third, also a liberal wedge, cuts in on both sides, covering the more liberal politicians.

This picture shows how the political process ends up carving up that first bell-curve into actual votes and seats, without trying to break it down into House versus Senate versus state-legislatures.

The conservative politicians have to run to their side quite a bit, and the liberal ones either run to the middle or to their end, but not so far toward their end in most cases. The picture also shows a smaller curve, which accounts for a few things:

  • Apathy
  • Elector suppression
  • Uncontested races

The latter, uncontested races, are caused by at least two factors. One is gerrymandering, where seats are made toxic to either party. In most cases, gerrymandering cuts against both parties, because they pack opponent voters into as few districts as possible and spread their own into as many as they can safely win. The second factor is the anti-primary attitude of both parties. This causes districts that aren’t contestable to not even have the choice to replace the feudal lord of the district.

At the bottom of the third image, we see a broad but side-skewed conservative bloc of seats, a mainstream-liberal bloc, and a thinner more liberal bloc. If I were better at image creation, the upper part would show some crossover in how that curve translates into seats. It’s not a full-on funneling, but it’s not as wrong as it might seem either.

There are other pressures that create the curve, that maintain it. Single-issue electors, racism, wealth and inequality, family origin (e.g., Americans from families with history in Cuba tend to favor Republicans because they believe it will result in time-machine-assassination of Fidel Castro).

But the result is something like what I drew.

As I’ve written about the idea of a Brand New Party, I’ve suggested there’s opportunity not to simply endorse Democrats. That gap at the bottom of the third image between conservatives and liberals is what I mean. A center-conservative party can exploit that gap. They can fit in there. There are voters above that gap that tend to be too conservative for Democrats, and there are Democrats in those districts who would gladly vote for the less conservative given a Democrat can’t win.

The Need for Good Right-Wing Media

The shape of American media and politics is a lukewarm pool of the Democratic mainstream next to a “Republican” spike pit covered by a confederate flag wearing a MAGA hat.

One thing that keeps coming to mind in thinking about the political problem is the separation of the right-wing media, how to deal with it. Occasionally we see stories about how conservatives can’t be persuaded, but the fact is they are very much persuadable by their own media. The fact that mainstream media can’t persuade them has more to do with the source than their minds.

The need for a Brand New Party and less toxic right-wing media go hand in hand. Digging out these lost souls requires persuading them, and that requires alternative media programming. We do see the same pattern between conservative media and conservative politics: trying to outflank competitors to the right (the more I think, read, learn about politics, the sillier I feel using terms like right-wing, conservative, and even Republican to describe what they stand for).

The whole point of my writings about a BNP is that you have to anchor it elsewhere. It’s always possible to get a frat boy to host a rant-show where they virtue-signal about racist replacement theories. There’s always a more vile and maniacal candidate to the right. The reason that GOP politics gets so toxic is the business community doesn’t want regulation or taxes, will fund crazies who can draw votes, don’t really care about the consequences. Some real crazies get in office that way and the whole country suffers from their instabilities.

The anchor point is center-right. Center enough that you can draw some folks who won’t listen to crazy People’s Republic of Donald John Trump bullshit, but far enough right that it’s still tolerable by traditional Republican electors. Is there such a place to set an anchor? Not under the current policy preferences of Republicans. But more on that below.

What does the anchor give you besides avoiding chasing competitors to the right? It sets expectations for audience share. You’re not trying to win over every conservative viewer or reader. You’re limiting yourself such that the dregs can and will fall away from you. That helps with advertising and content volatility issues. It saves your soul, as well, if you care about that sort of thing. If big business wants you deliver outrage-on-tap, that’s not your game, and they can piss up a flagpole.

One challenge of anchoring is that competitors may be juicing a bad story for cynical reasons. Opposition coverage tends to focus on a framing: “Can you believe how bad our competitors are?!” But Brand New Media could focus on why and what without necessarily acting judgmental about it. In doing so, they would check two boxes:

  1. Still being acceptable to the right-wing and centrists at the same time.
  2. Having some coverage of a story they would prefer to avoid entirely.

The idea of conservative-lite media requires new policies. Providing real market-driven solutions is key, but it also require acknowledging that many of the problems Democrats highlight are real problems. It’s been a long time since most Republicans have had to think about some of those problems: denying them was cheaper. But it’s better business to address them. There’s a lot more money to be made through competition than oligopoly or monopoly.

Simplifying regulations is a big winner. Keyword there is misregulation. Traditional Republicans talk about overregulation or simply use the word regulation to mean that any regulation is bad. But if you focus on the real problems and on alternative solutions, you can actually get more changes through that wouldn’t be possible through slashing all regs.

The current crop of Republicans in Congress believe obstruction is key, but if ten Republicans negotiated on the reconciliation bill, they could cut it by a trillion bucks and make it worth twice as much to the country. Instead, we end up with either a more expensive bill that does less, or a bunch of wasted time and no benefit—that still costs us trillions in both opportunity costs and damages from a less functional economy. Businesses are pissing a lot of money away by backing obstruction rather than smarter legislation. Dumbasses.

The Democrats tend to propose to make things less expensive by having the government pay for them instead of individuals paying for them. They don’t actually work to make the things cheaper, just to remap the path the money takes. But many things should get cheaper over time. That does require tradeoffs of labor for automation or structural changes to markets. But the result is better products and lower prices both, rather than inferior products at premium prices.

Another feature of a Brand New Media is a focus on experimentation, on trial and error. There is an easy-to-build hope and pride in a society that solves problems by giving different policies a chance and evaluating them. If a new center-right media presents such efforts in that light, it would help them build good will that the doomsayers they compete with couldn’t match.