The reason Democrats and their media buddies like Brooke Baldwin are on alert today for “mob” rhetoric by Republicans is because the word has gone out that this is a message being used by Republican pols and consultants to get righty voters stirred up for the midterms. Which is true to some degree, it should be said: Not only did Trump warn fans of the left’s angry mob a few days ago, he was chattering about Antifa in addresses to supporters weeks before the Kavanaugh confirmation process went into a ditch. But not every use of the term is strategic. Matt Lewis is completely in earnest in the clip below in complaining about mob behavior, as are the many grassroots righties who’ve complained about it over the last few weeks. When the media is convinced that Republicans are “pouncing,” though, they feel obliged to treat the underlying objection as though it’s offered in bad faith. Hence Baldwin’s exaggerated reaction in the clip.
Lewis emphasized today, after watching Baldwin last night on Colbert, that he was indeed completely in earnest:
With all due respect, I don’t do ‘talking points.’ https://t.co/m9gZgDrlFW
— Matt Lewis (@mattklewis) October 17, 2018
What’s the difference between a panelist regurgitating a “talking point” and a panelist making a point that lots of other people on his side, some of them — gasp — Republican politicians, agree with? That’s why people like Lewis are hired as contributors, I thought, because they articulate a point of view shared by many on the left or the right. Another way to ask that is: How and why does something become a “talking point”? Lewis didn’t call the overreactions to Kavanaugh on the left a “mob” because the RNC handed him a sheet of paper with those words on it before the segment began. Rather the opposite, I’d guess. Trump and other pols began pushing the idea of a mob because they were made aware that grassroots righties had already begun using the word themselves, particularly after watching that sh*tshow outside the Supreme Court building with people banging on the doors. The “mob” point resonated with right-wingers so their political leadership naturally latched onto it.
The truth, which Baldwin could have just ‘fessed up to, is that she disagrees that Kavanaugh protesters behaved like a mob and doesn’t want her show being used to air that view. Lewis has doubtless said lots of things in earnest on her program in the past that are also used by Republican pols as talking points; “lower taxes are better for the economy,” for instance, is a standard opinion among Republicans at the highest and lowest levels. Yet Baldwin would never think to call Lewis out for pushing a “talking point” if he said that. There’s merit to the point about lower taxes, after all, whereas in her eyes there isn’t merit to calling liberals a “mob.” But because CNN anchors have to posture as neutral, just callin’ balls and strikes as they see ’em, her objection to describing some lefties as a “mob” is dressed up as an objection to people pushing scripted partisan messages of any stripe on her show.
Next time Lewis is on, he should ask her to explain which opinions shared by millions on his side do and don’t count as “talking points” that would demean the discourse if shared during mid-day CNN coverage. “We need a strong military”? “The Constitution should be read in light of its original intent”? “America can’t afford trillion-dollar deficits forever”? (Republicans on the Hill don’t share that one, actually.) Or is it just “talking points” that target the left specifically that she has a problem with?
Here’s the Colbert clip followed by an older one, via a Twitter pal, of her showing off her supposed allergy to talking points.