Strong opinions, weakly held

The economics of activism

In this Slate dialogue, a point is raised that I think deserves further attention. Activist groups (conservative, liberal, and otherwise) have a financial incentive to manufacture as much outrage as possible during the Supreme Court confirmation process. The more worked up people get, the more money they shovel at these various groups in order to feel like they’re making a difference, so these groups are going to try to overheat the process to the degree that they can. When you toss in the 24 hour news networks who have to do something to get people to tune in to all of their stupid talking head shows, and the bloggers out there who benefit from keeping their readers whipped into a frenzy, then it hardly matters who the nominee is or what they believe.

Last night I was at a restaurant and CNN was on the TV (usually they show international soccer matches, which I would have preferred in this instance). I couldn’t hear the sound, but the text on the bottom of the screen said, “Why did Bush pick Roberts?” Andy Card was off course being interviewed. Then New York senator Chuck Shumer was on and the text was of course, something about objections to Shumer. How is this news? Bush picked him because he’s a qualified candidate and has been a reliable foot soldier for the Republican party for his entire professional career. Liberals are opposed to him because he doesn’t agree with them about much of anything.

The opening scenes of this grand piece of political theater already have me fatigued.


  1. I’m with you, Rafe. I haven’t even been following the discussion about Roberts much. My sister emailed me to ask what I thought after finding no reaction on my site, and I can’t come up with anything to say. For some reason this “issue” such as it is just isn’t inspiring me, even though I suspect he would be overly deferential on at least one key hotbutton for me: torture. So why can’t I get upset?

  2. yeah, I’m with you on the fatigue. not only that, but I don’t give any of my organizations funds on this one. I honestly don’t want them all blanketing the airwaves with shock ads — I’d like to see some pointed questioning during the confirmation, perhaps a set-up for later points to be made in elections and the like, but the flurry just makes the Dems look like perpetual wolf-cryers.


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