Thomas Zimmer Profile picture
May 28, 2022 25 tweets 7 min read Read on X
This perfectly captures the state of the political discourse on the Right.

It’s a massive problem that much of the established media will keep pretending these are serious people because they feel the need to uphold the myth that there are two roughly equivalent sides/parties.
Since mainstream journalism is predicated on the idea that politics is a game between two teams that are essentially the same and journalists aspire to “neutrality,” which they define as equidistance from either side, whatever comes from the GOP has to be elevated to credibility.
Stating clearly what the Republican Party has become would run counter to mainstream journalism’s eternal quest for “neutrality” and “balanced” coverage, its overwhelming desire to signal “nonpartisanship.” And so the GOP continues to be covered as if it were a “normal” party.
Occasionally, something so terrible happens that it has enough of an impact to break through this “both sides” charade of constant normalization. Uvalde was such an event. And so we’re getting editorials telling us clearly what the problem is: The radicalization of the Right.
But it never lasts. We’ll be back to pretending the GOP is a “normal” party soon. It’s also weirdly inconsequential for other areas of public policy: Republicans can thoroughly debase themselves on gun violence - and will still be treated as serious voices on taxes, welfare, etc.
And so journalists, forcing themselves to act as if they were completely oblivious to who they are interviewing, will keep approaching them with a microphone to spout their vile nonsense into, as if they hadn’t proven a million times they weren’t serious people.
It’s one of the most bizarre features of the American political discourse that it demands we pretend these are serious suggestions, coming from serious political actors, instead of acknowledging that one side, one party, is entirely uninterested in protecting American lives.
In a healthy political culture, anyone trafficking in such deranged nonsense would be shunned and ostracized, the party that elevates them would have to pay a hefty political price.

In the U.S., that’s evidently not the case. And until that changes, nothing changes.
Addendum: In case anyone needed more evidence for the type of mainstream media complicity I am criticizing here, the NYT has this to offer.

This type of coverage is actively harmful and serves no journalistic purpose beyond upholding the “neutrality” dogma. It needs to stop.
The constant normalization of Republican radicalism via supposedly “balanced” journalism is usually most apparent in opinion pieces that explicitly employ a “both sides” framing – but in some ways, it’s the supposedly “neutral” reporting that does more harm. Here’s an example: Image
It starts with the headline that defines the problem as “gridlock” in Congress – a term that appears several times in the piece. And in a narrow sense, that’s factually correct. But it’s a framing that privileges those who simply sabotage over those who want solutions. ImageImage
The “dysfunction” trope is, in almost all cases, willfully obtuse and entirely misleading. Is there no level of deliberate sabotage from Republicans that political journalists won’t immediately press into the all-familiar “Dysfunction in Washington” framework?
There’s a long bipartisan tradition of blaming “Washington,” of course. But actively sabotaging government and then selling the ensuing dysfunction as proof that government doesn’t work - that’s really been a Republican specialty for decades, with disastrous consequences.
Next up, we get the usual dose of stenography-masquerading-as-journalism: Yes, it’s true, Republicans want to frame it all as a mental health issue and blame Democrats for “politicizing” the situation – but do we need the NYT to present this without any kind of disclaimer? Image
What’s the least controversial thing one can do in American politics? Blame “polarization”: It’s the concept you use if you want to lament major problems in American politics but can’t bring yourself to openly address the fact that the actual issue really is a radicalizing Right. Image
This one is particularly bad: Why sanitize the utterly deranged, entirely-detached-from-empirical-reality nonsense that Republicans have been offering by presenting it as a call to improve “school security and mental health”? Image
“There remain serious questions,” the article reminds us – which makes it sound like someone offered a new, yet to be tested, maybe potentially risky but also kind of innovative approach that just hasn’t been fully vetted yet… Is that what Republicans have been doing? Image
The article finally links the gun debate to the broader political conflict. Unfortunately, we’re being treated to some hardcore both sides-ing. Yes, Republican states have been up to some pretty extreme stuff – but did you know that Democrats have decided “to respond in kind”? Image
Once again, on a narrowly factual level, it is not incorrect to say that California wants to use the questionable (that’s a euphemism) legal mechanism pioneered by Texas to abolish abortion to enforce its existing gun laws. But think about what’s implied here by this framing. Image
What is strongly implied here – fully in line with the overall “polarization” framework – is that both sides are engaged in an equally bad, ever-radicalizing, dangerously escalating project to force their radical views and policies onto America.
That’s only plausible, however, if you think that Texas (abolishing the right to abortion, bodily autonomy, and privacy) and California (enforcing existing gun laws to keep *already banned* guns off the street) are somehow pursuing projects that are morally and politically equal.
One state, Texas, is pursuing a policy uniquely extreme in the “developed” world – while the other, California, is enforcing gun laws that are fully in line with what is consensus everywhere outside the United States of America. That seems like relevant context, perhaps?
I am not singling out this article because it is so extraordinarily bad – but because it’s typical of what is presented as “balanced” coverage every day. It’s the result of journalists following an ethos of “neutrality,” which they define as keeping equidistance from either side.
The “neutrality” dogma and the overwhelming desire to signal “nonpartisanship” have journalists gravitate towards narratives and frameworks that blame “division,” “polarization,” lack of “unity” – while never adequately and precisely assessing the problem.
The resulting coverage constantly privileges the radicalizing rightwing forces in American life. The cumulative effect of this kind of journalism is disastrous. So many Americans remain oblivious to the threat of Republican radicalization – and this is a big reason why.

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More from @tzimmer_history

Apr 23
What an absolute disaster that Republicans are still successfully playing their cynical game of exploiting fears over antisemitism in order to advance their reactionary crusade – and mainstream institutions keep willfully playing along.
I wrote about this here (link in bio): 1/ Screenshot of my “Democracy Americana” newsletter from Dec. 14: “We Are Falling Apart: The Right is successfully exploiting fears over rising antisemitism for its reactionary crusade while the Israel-Hamas war is tearing the democratic popular front to pieces”
We have reached a truly bizarre place in our political discourse when supposedly serious people want us to believe that the party of Trump, QAnon, and “Great Replacement” is the bulwark against antisemitism in America. 2/ Image
After pretending to be really upset about campus antisemitism during the congressional hearings in December, Stefanik ran off to meet “her friend,” the leader of a fascistic movement, the guy who is raging against immigrants “poisoning the blood of our country.” 3/ Image
Read 20 tweets
Apr 13
Weekend reading: I wrote about the disingenuous and dangerous folly of anti-anti-Trump conservatism.
How “respectable” conservatives normalize Trump, rage against a caricature of “the Left,” and accommodate rightwing extremism:

Screenshot of my latest “Democracy Americana” newsletter: “Anti-Anti-Trump Conservatives Are Paving the Way for Authoritarianism: Highbrow conservative commentators are giving themselves and their readers permission to support Trump by portraying “liberal hysteria” as the real threat: A case study of National Review”
I dove into how leading conservative commentators in National Review are imagining a second Trump presidency. What they offer isn’t analysis. It is sophistry in defense of the premise that the actual threat isn’t Trump, it’s hysterical Libs and the radical Left. 2/
The goal is evidently not to provide National Review readers with an understanding of what’s been happening on the Right, but to portray Trump and his political project as so mundane and unremarkable that the liberal reaction to Trump must seem unhinged and dangerous. 3/
Read 15 tweets
Apr 10
Anti-Anti-Trump Conservatism Is a Disingenuous and Dangerous Game
A case study of how National Review normalizes Trump, rages against a bizarre caricature of “the Left,” and thereby accommodates rightwing extremism.
A thread, based on my new piece (link in bio):
🧵1/ Screenshot of my latest “Democracy Americana” newsletter: “Anti-Anti-Trump Conservatives Are Paving the Way for Authoritarianism: Highbrow conservative commentators are giving themselves and their readers permission to support Trump by portraying “liberal hysteria” as the real threat: A case study of National Review”
I dissect two recent pieces written by National Review editor-in-chief Rich Lowry and senior writer Michael Brendan Dougherty - who represent that “respectable” spectrum of the American Right the mainstream political discourse consistently asks us to take seriously. 2/
Whether or not rightwing extremists manage to take power depends largely on how much support they get from mainstream conservative circles – it depends on the extent to which the rightwing establishment is willing to make common cause with extremism. 3/
Read 10 tweets
Apr 10
Anti-anti-Trumpism in National Review stands in a long tradition of modern conservative leaders accommodating and providing cover for anti-democratic extremism – going all the way back to the conservative godfather William F. Buckley himself.
New piece (link in bio):
🧵1/ Screenshot of my latest “Democracy Americana” newsletter: “Anti-Anti-Trump Conservatives Are Paving the Way for Authoritarianism: Highbrow conservative commentators are giving themselves and their readers permission to support Trump by portraying “liberal hysteria” as the real threat: A case study of National Review”
In early 2016, National Review – to much fanfare and mainstream praise – published a special issue titled “Against Trump.” No more. An increasingly untethered anti-anti-Trumpism is the game these “serious” conservatives are playing. 2/
When editor-in-chief Rich Lowry organized the “Against Trump” special issue of National Review, he was widely hailed for continuing the noble conservative tradition of holding the line against fringe extremism – just like magazine founder Willian F. Buckley had supposedly done.3/
Read 16 tweets
Apr 7
There is also an element of Volkish ideology here - the assumption that rural white people with reactionary sensibilities represent “real America” and therefore command deference - while the groups that make up the pluralistic Democratic coalition constitute a deviation.

1/ Bluesky post from “The critical thing about this entire episode is the contrast with how GOP rhetoric is treated by the press. Slandering Democrats and city dwellers is normal, but the reverse can't happen. Implicitly it's because of the power rural areas hold federally, but it's been laundered into a moral principle.”
This ideology of “real Americanism” is crucial: It provides the foundation for the Right’s anti-democratic radicalization, forms the basis of its normalization in mainstream political discourse, and helps explain why the response to the authoritarian threat has been lacking.

The idea that Trump and his base deserve special deference from mainstream political and media institutions is based on the assumption that Trump embodies and gives voice to an uprising of “regular folks” who had supposedly been unfairly ignored by arrogant elites in 2016. 3/
Read 13 tweets
Mar 30
ICYMI: What the Right Plans to Do With Power

All three parts of my series about “Project 2025” are out.

Almost 15,000 words on what these radical plans would do to America and how to explain the Right’s open embrace of state authoritarianism:

Screenshot of my latest “Democracy Americana” newsletter - the third and final part of a series about “Project 2025”: “What Makes ‘Project 2025’ So Dangerous: Will the Right be able to implement these radical plans? Is Trump on board? What happened to traditional conservatism? Let’s tackle some of the key questions surrounding ‘Project 2025’”
Part 1 focuses on the worldview of the people behind “Project 2025.”
They see themselves as noble defenders of “real America” against a totalitarian “woke,” “globalist” assault. “Project 2025” is their declaration of war on multiracial pluralism: 2/…
Screenshot of my “Democracy Americana” newsletter - Part 1 (of 3) of a series about “Project 2025”: “Project 2025” Promises Revenge, Oppression, and Autocratic Rule: The Right’s plans for a return to power are driven by a radicalizing siege mentality and a desperate desire to restore dominance.
In his foreword to the "Project 2025" report, Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts offers his “Promise to America”: It perfectly captures the escalating siege mentality, self-victimization, and grievance-driven lust for revenge that are fueling the Right's plans. 3/
Read 13 tweets

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