"AUTHENTICITY" ACT PROVIDES COVER FOR PANDERING TO THE RIGHT. Kevin Drum aptly observes that the press corps shouldn't allow itself to be snookered by George Allen's authenticity schtick the way it got snowed by John McCain's rendition of the same act back in 2000. Let me add another point about this. The key to this game, as practiced by Allen, McCain and George Bush, is that it has a pernicious underside: The "regular-guy" schtick is crucial partly because it provides cover for the politician in question to pander relentlessly to the right.
Here is some of what Crooks and Liars offers as a transcript of Allen speaking on Hardball:
The thing that's good about Tony Snow is that being on talk radio ... he bring[s] the pulse of people in the real world to the White House, understanding how people react to it and whether they are on Rush Limbaugh's show or Hugh Hewitt's show or Laura Ingraham's show or who knows who, the Sean Hannity's or any other radio show -- the fact that he understands the language, the sentiments, the spirit of the American people who want to see action here in Washington..." (Emphasis added.)
While Allen plays the affable "regular guy" out of one side of his mouth, he sucks up to peddlers of extremism and hate out of the other. The key to this whole ruse is that these are two sides of the same coin. Once reporters and commentators deem a politician "authentic" or "regular," they're all too often willing to let that distract them from his dalliances with figures who are anything but regular or mainstream. Unlike in 2000, McCain is now cozying up to despicable figures like Jerry Falwell -- and the key reason many are letting McCain skate by is that they're still snookered by his alleged straight-talking.
The point is, this sort of pandering wouldn't be sustainable for mainstream pols without the regular-guy shtick that suckers many in the press into overlooking it. Why does this shell game work so well? I'd argue it's because many in the media are easily persuaded to conflate demeanor with ideology -- that a "regular guy" is for some reason automatically a "moderate." But as we now know from Ryan Lizza's much-discussed piece -- and Allen's apparent belief that Limbaugh and Ingraham embody the "spirit of the American people" -- Allen is anything but moderate. The question now is whether the press will call him out on it -- or instead dub him "regular," and hence agree to politely ignore who he really is and what he believes.