1. I’m sort of moved to speak up for the populist conservative media (talk radio, Fox News - and Bret Baier and Chris Wallace on Fox are good by any standard.) They give a substantial fraction of the public the information and reinforcement they want. They make money. They make their audiences happy. What our political culture hasn’t come to terms with is that the proliferation of right-of-center broadcasting has coincided with (probably) a smaller percentage of Americans (and especially younger Americans) hearing conservative opinions at length, in language they understand. Though come to think of it, I’m not really disagreeing with Peter Lawler here.
2. These comments obviously don’t apply to outlets like National Affairs. It is a good thing (and a counter to some of my pessimism) that the closest thing we have to a federal-level National Affairs politician is on the Republican ticket.
3. When it comes to contemporary foreign policy, my sense is that younger people (especially the youngest voting cohorts) are instinctively closer to Ron Paul than President Obama’s actual policies. That doesn’t mean they are ready to vote for Paul. Facing a constrained choice, there are all kinds of reasons they would prefer Obama, but if you gave them written comments on Afghanistan or NATO from Obama and Paul, Ron Paul’s comments would be more appealing at first.
4. And speaking of Ron Paul. He has the virtue of making arguments for his positions. There is a difference between trying to get people to agree with you and trying to convince people that you agree with what they already believe. In the primaries, most Republican candidates (very much including Romney) tried to play to the audience’s pre-existing beliefs. It was mostly “I’ll destroy Obamacare.” and “”No, I’ll really destroy Obamacare.” That is why Paul drove the conversation on monetary policy. He was the only one making a real argument on the subject. No one dared make a sustained argument for monetarism. The other candidates either tried to co-opt the tone though not the substance of Paul’s Fed bashing (Gingrich and Perry did this) or just stayed out of Paul’s way as much as possible on the issue without affirming Paul’s critique (Romney.) Santorum tried to make arguments for his positions and he sometimes did fine. He was able to pin Romney to the wall on Romneycare a couple of times. Santorum was limited by several problems. First, Santorum lacked self-control and would melt down whenever he faced real scrutiny as a potential president. Second, Santorum’s rhetorical strategy was built around winning over white working-class Democrats from the mid-1970s and it isn’t the 1970s anymore.