How The Conservative Media Lost The Election

BuzzFeed Politics

The plan was to unmask Obama. It didn’t work.

President Obama’s decisive reelection has promised the conservative new media four more years of fodder, but it’s also left some of its more earnest participants with a gnawing question: What went wrong?

The new online right came roaring out of 2008 convinced that the only reason Obama won was because John McCain’s weak-stomached campaign — cowed by the aura of the first black presidential nominee — had failed to document his ties to the radical left. Their mission would be to “vet” the president as McCain hadn’t, and convince the American people to reject him.

Now the loose coalition of scrappy bloggers, advocacy journalists, and unrepentant trolls who spent four years writing about Jeremiah Wright and Saul Alinsky are coming to terms with reality: The polls weren’t skewed, and their narrative didn’t stick.

And with the Republican Party now in full-throttle soul-searching mode, many in the conservative blogosphere are turning introspective as well.

“I think the right media may have erred,” Dan Riehl, a contributor to Breitbart News and longtime proprietor of Riehl World News, told BuzzFeed a week after the election. “I think we let Obama get into our heads and we wound up campaigning against him, rather than for the things we believe in.”

“It was a trap,” he added. “And one I can’t say I didn’t fall into.”

In hindsight, Riehl questioned the wisdom of devoting so much energy to combing through the president’s early life for signs of radicalism — a process that yielded few true exposés, but rather a handful of scraps that bloggers tried to spin into scandals. For example, in March, Breitbart News reported that Obama attended a 1998 production of a play about left-wing Chicago activist Saul Alinsky. The story, which was presented as a major scoop on the site, included this memorable lede:

In The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama claims that he worried after 9/11 that his name, so similar to that of Osama bin Laden, might harm his political career.

But Obama was not always so worried about misspellings and radical resemblances. He may even have cultivated them as he cast himself as Chicago’s radical champion.

“I just don’t know that America cared,” Riehl now says of this story genre. “The guy had already been elected, and our message was that Barack Obama’s a socialist that wants to control your life. I’m not arguing that he isn’t, but is that a message people want to hear?”

Continue reading McKay Coppins‘ article here…

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