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TYRRELL: Not debating liberalism

Lamestream press pretends conservatism is dead

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Here I am on the campaign trail, frenetically promoting my book, "The Death of Liberalism." I appear on scores of radio interviews, in and out of the studio. I appear on Fox News and C-SPAN. I hardly have time for dinner, but it could be more demanding still. I could be invited to appear on traditional media, as it is still quaintly called. Yet I am not. ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and MSNBC do not call. I, the editor of a major magazine from the right that has been around for 45 years, have written a book arguing that a major political ideology, liberalism, is dead, and no one in the traditional media seems to think it merits even a spitball. Things have changed even more than the mainstream media knows.

Thirty years ago, when I came out with a book, all the above networks, at least all the above networks that were then in business, would have me on. They thought I was crazy, but they would have me on. Through all these years my views have not changed or radicalized. They remain pretty much fixed, though possibly I am a little bit more liberal. I am more tolerant of sexual diversity. I have flipped and oppose capital punishment. I am open to reforming the criminal justice system to treat nonviolent crime differently from violent crimes. But today the mainstream media is alien country to me. I cannot get in even with a green card. Three, possibly four, presidents have been my friends, but I remain persona non grata with mainstream media, especially when I talk about politics.

The voices of conventional mainstream media never tire of mawkishly saying that something has changed in America. In this I agree with them. Yet as my hordes of publicists spread out through medialand tempting the personages with appetizing morsels of my thesis, only the conservatives bite. The liberals turn a stony face. In 2009, when Sam Tanenhaus came out with a book titled "The Death of Conservatism," they clap-ped their hands, though there was no evidence in the book to support its thesis, and a year later, on Oct.19, 2010, as the conservatives were about to have their mightiest victory in decades, the unfortunate Tanenhaus came out with a second edition now in paperback.

Today, of course, the traditional media bewail how polarized the political landscape has become. They fret over the violent language, the dirty tricks, the lack of dialogue. But what they are fretting about is that there has over the past 30 years appeared a point of view that disagrees with the serried ranks of liberalism. It is the point of view held by 42 percent of the American people. It is the point of view that has dominated politics since Ronald Reagan's election and gained emphasis since President Bill Clinton threw up his hands and said, "The era of big government is over." It was in retreat in the last years of George W. Bush and perhaps the first six months of President Obama, but now it is again dominant. It is also a perfectly respectable point of view.

As I continue on my campaign, I am increasingly aware that what has changed in the country is mainstream media. They are less hospitable to conservatives. They act like a political party, an especially partisan party. Conservatives have emerged in media to express their point of view on major issues of the day. This is diversity of opinion that the increasingly partisan mainstream media cannot countenance, and so they say it is shocking. It is incendiary. It is closed-minded.

Actually, one of the rare figures on television or radio that strenuously works to include both the left and the right in debates is, prepare yourself, Sean Hannity of Fox News. He really works at it. He airs people who disagree with him and he lets the left and the right have at each other. As for traditional media, if it airs a debate between the left and the right the person on the right is usually a critic of the right who feigns a therapeutic message for conservatism, say, David Frum, a man with no standing on the right.

I say wherever I go nowadays that liberalism is dead. One piece of evidence is traditional media. It pretends the dominant political view in the country does not exist, conservatism.

R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. He is the author most recently of "The Death of Liberalism" (Thomas Nelson).

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