Over the last few months, a string of seemingly solid pillars of the rightwing ideological establishment have crashed, or at least wobbled. The typical case has been one of over-reach followed by public exposure and then a rush of sponsors and other supporters for the exit. Examples include
* Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke and subsequent abandonment by sponsors
* The failed attempt by rightwing operatives at the Komen Foundation to blacklist Planned Parenthood
* The exposure of ALEC’s responsibility for the “stand your ground” laws that played a critical role in the Trayvon Martin case
* Most recently, the Heartland Institute has seen sponsors bail and its entire Washington team (mostly focused on insurance issues) decamp, promising that their new operation will have nothing to do with climate “scepticism”
In addition to this, but arguably sui generis are
* the attempt (which looks like succeeding) by the Koch Brothers to take control of Cato, easily the most credible thinktank on the right of politics
* the denunciation of the Republican party by Norman Ornstein, long presented as the intellectually respectable face of the American Enterprise Institute
It’s striking that these things are happening at a time when Mitt Romney is running neck and neck with Obama and there is a serious chance that the Repubs will control all three branches of government. So, the intellectual apparatus of the Republican seems to be collapsing of its own accord, rather than because the poltiical tide is running against it.
I don’t have a fully satisfactory analysis of this, but the simple proposition that “truth will out” seems to be working at some level. As long as things are going well, these organizations and pundits benefit from the reflexive assumptions of balance, two sides to every story and so on. But they’ve lied so often and so blatantly that this requires a lot of cognitive dissonance. When they overreach and screw up in the process, the cognitive dissonance is resolved against them. And (subject to the same cognitive dissonance) people now understand that the whole Repub apparatus is like this, so that the obscurity of a group like ALEC isn’t much of a defence when they are caught redhanded.
That’s probably overoptimistic, but its good to have a few wins on this front, after years of successful Swiftboating by the other side.