The Republican Party is reeling from the political chaos that ensued during the recent race for House Speaker. The election has been seen as a gauging of the power of the often divided Republican Party, and the outcome has been an embarrassment for the party and its leadership. The circumstances leading up to the vote has been the focus of intense scrutiny – and the blame for the political gridlock has largely been placed on the shoulders of conservative media figures.
Conservative media commentators have long been influential figures in the United States, particularly among Republican circles. Their voices are often immediate and loud, and they have enormous sway within the Party. In the weeks leading up to the vote for House Speaker, several prominent conservative media figures took to the airwaves and social media to express their disdain for the current party leadership.
Conservative talk show host Sean Hannity encouraged his followers to “raise hell” with their elected representatives and to “organize and fight.” He also referred to Speaker John Boehner as “the most ineffective and unsuccessful Speaker in the history of the House.” Tea Party leader and radio show host Mark Levin labeled Speaker Boehner “dangerous” and called for his immediate ousting. Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren asked members of Congress if they were “afraid of John Boehner” and declared that the party was in dire need of a new leader.
These incendiary messages were a rallying cry for the Republican base, and seemed to embolden individual members to break from the party leadership and challenge Speaker Boehner’s nomination. The messages also put the Party in a state of disarray leading up to the vote, forcing members to spend more time debating and negotiating among themselves than campaigning against the Democrats and trying to win votes.
The role of conservative media figures in the GOP’s embarrassment has been widely acknowledged, and it serves as a cautionary tale for the Party as a whole. At the same time, it reaffirms the immense influence of conservative media commentators and their capacity to shape the political landscape. The Republican Party must now take a hard look at how it handles these influential voices, and gauge how to better control their messaging in the future.