Republican pollster and public opinion guru Frank Luntz is presently experiencing something of a personal crisis. The 51 year-old known best for his long and venerated career of spinning talking points, interpreting public reaction and helping craft Republican messaging to mislead and misguide the electorate, is finding it harder to get out of bed in the morning these days and is even considering selling his highly lucrative consulting company. The reason? Partisan division and that damn President Obama…
Luntz, who the nation has to thank for the misleading rebranding of the estate tax to that of the “death tax,” sat down with The Atlantic’s Molly Ball recently to discuss his life, career and perspective on the state of American politics. While generally chipper and alight, Ball found a much different Frank Luntz joining her for lunch that day at the Republican hangout, The Capitol Hill Club. Describing him as possessing a “broken” psyche, Ball paints a picture of a woeful and dismayed man, who after over two decades of making his living by subverting and spinning public opinion, finds a nation divided and a political process entrenched in hopeless partisan warfare.
While one might hope that this recognition and the accompanying depression may indicate that the conservative, free-market spin-master may be returning to some relative version of reality in the face of growing inequality, private sector graft and corruption and the endless parade of partisan posturing, such is sadly not the case.
Maintaining his orthodox loyalty to the regressive, oligarchic ideals he promotes shamelessly for his party and clients, Luntz laments not the roots of such division — those being professional consultants like himself who’ve worked tirelessly for decades to define or create wedge issues with division being the ultimate goal — but the division itself and what he feels is a growing “entitlement mentality” throughout the country.
The irony to all of this while palpable, runs deeper than mere discontent over topical division. Luntz, who believes deeply in the make-believe virtue of unfettered capitalism (a term Rush Limbaugh claims is a liberal myth,) has apparently missed the larger realities of his dreams coming true after decades of advancing the cause as a professional bullshit artist. With income inequality and ever expanding class divisions coming as a result of neoliberal, pro-corporate policies of the very variety that Luntz and co. support, the reaction by the public who still for some reason require livable wages, clean drinking water, breathable air and so on, seems to have caused Luntz some substantial dismay, causing him to literally lose sleep as he ponders his place in this future he helped create.
There is little argument that most if not all stately civility has left American politics at this point. With candidates and incumbents both spending more time chasing election dollars than studying or legislating on issues and as the bitterly entrenched sides of “left” and “right” continue to posture and square off over everything from national budgets to what kind of fast food is most aligned with their political persuasion, as a simple matter of observable reality, Luntz’s criticisms and woes regarding such division are analytically sound.
Yet in his overlooking or omitting of his role in the development of such an environment while he rolls his eyes and grits his teeth over it all, Luntz seems to have been less than careful about what he’d wished for, citing the intractable positions that so many take on political issues.
[box type=”shadow”]”They want to impose their opinions rather than express them, and they’re picking up their leads from here in Washington.”[/box]
While he may be right in some regards on this point, it would seem that Luntz in between bouts of depression and binge watching “The Newsroom” — which he reports is his favorite show — has managed to forget how he and the veritable armies of political and polling consultants who help shape not only campaigns, but candidate brands, setting the stage for the showboating and posturing which have come to define American politics in recent decades.
It could be that Luntz has outgrown the childish word games which have helped derive such divisions, or merely that his advances in the fields of mass communications and manipulation have broken ground for a new breed of spin masters. But whatever the case may be, Luntz is starting to give indications that he may wash his hands of the mess he helped create, feeling that he just doesn’t believe he’s up to taking on the modern dynamics in the context of what he knows.
[box type=”shadow”]”I have come to the extent of my capabilities. And this is not false modesty. I think I’m pretty good. But not good enough.”[/box]
Should the world see the last of Frank Luntz, his legacy will undoubtedly live on as the new breed of conservative spin masters and mole hill mountaineers such as the Veritas Project’s James O’Keefe and radical-turned-informant-turned-Breitbart-columnist Brandon Darby, are both making names for themselves through shameless acts of intellectual dishonesty and ideological fervor. And as the old guard withers and is replaced by the new, analysts will continue to watch Karl Rove with intensifying scrutiny, to see if perhaps he too may somehow grow a conscience with which to have a crisis.
(h/t: The Atlantic)