Palm Beach – the new epicenter of the (alternative) conservative media

By Michael Kagdis (Proper Media Group) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Michael Kagdis (Proper Media Group) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-Donald Trumpsa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump has put Palm Beach squarely on the global political radar. But Trump’s election is just the latest event that has helped to make Palm Beach County – once reliably Democratic and liberal the epicenter of a new conservative world.

Newsmax publisher Christopher Ruddy’s appearance on CNN’s indispensable Reliable Sources on Sunday emphasized the importance of Palm Beach. Ruddy, who was named as one of the 100 most influential conservatives in the country by The Daily Telegraph in 2010 used the Obama years to turn Palm Beach County-based Newsmax into a more influential voice on the far right than the more established and mainstream publications. Ruddy’s journalistic lineage dates back to the Richard Mellon-Scaife “Arkansas Project” of the early 1990’s.

Like David Brock (whom my colleague Brook Hines will have a piece on in the near future) Ruddy cut his teeth in the Scaife world of investigating the Clinton’s. Unlike Brock, Ruddy remained a conservative and built his own ideologically-driven media empire outside of the mainstream Republican circuit, adroitly associating first with neoconservative foreign policy and then with tea party opposition to both President Obama and the GOP establishment. By the time the 2012 primaries for President rolled around GOP hopefuls were making the pilgrimage to Palm Beach County to worship at the alter of the empire Ruddy had built. The next year, Newsmax launched a TV network, one that made FOX News look moderate and reasoned. In 2017, with Trump in the White House, Ruddy and Newsmax have extraordinary power.

Palm Beach County also plays home to Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter – the two most visible angry conservatives and two people the mainstream of the Republican Party often has to apologize for. At a time when more intellectual conservative media personalities such as Charles Krauthaumer and Stephen Hayes are lukewarm about Trump, and some like David Frum, George F. Will and William Kristol are outright hostile to the new President, Limbaugh and Coulter are the ringleaders of the cheering squad for the White House’s most extreme rhetoric.

Coulter’s championing of Trump with rhetoric more overtly racist than the candidate himself was willing to embrace in the primaries allowed the women who rose to prominence by advocating the jailing of President Clinton to become even more visible and credible to some than previously. Limbaugh, whose influence had waned in recent years has reemerged as a leader of the conservative line on talk radio thanks in large measure to Glenn Beck’s open ambivalence about what he sees as Steve Bannon’s racism – something that has prevented Limbaugh’s biggest talk radio rival from fully embracing Trump and in fact that among other things stopped Beck from casting his ballot for Trump last November. Limbaugh has no such moral qualms about Bannon or Trump for that matter and has become once again a leader in propagating the most extreme right wing rhetoric.

Since Trump was elected President, Beck has embraced much of his policy while continuing to regularly cast warnings about Bannon and his racism even taking to CNN to discuss him, thus making it unlikely Beck will ever truly support Trump. Beck’s unwillingness to put aside his (justified) opposition to Bannon’s racism means Limbaugh is now once again king of the conservative talk radio hill.

On the state level, the influential BizPac Review, an unabashedly conservative site has emerged as the biggest online player in local Palm Beach County politics and has a footprint even at the national level.

While a convenient fallback position for the alignment of conservative media in the area for many Democrats has for years been to claim how successful the party is locally, even that is changing. Al Gore got almost 63% of the counted vote in Palm Beach County in 2000 (and as someone who prominently featured in that county’s recount in 2000, I can tell you 64% probably intended to vote for Gore – the linked New York Times article is important to understanding what happened in that recount), yet by 2016, Hillary Clinton was carrying just 56.5% of the county vote. This is direct contrast with other urban counties such as Miami-Dade where Gore got 53% but Clinton got close to 64% and Orange where Gore got 51% but Clinton won 61% of the counties voters. Palm Beach County is trending Republican and the preponderance of influential state and national conservatives certainly isn’t helping matters.

Palm Beach County is now the epicenter of the conservative world in so many ways. It’s important progressives, particularly those in southeast Florida remain vigilant toward this alternative media that has cropped up.

6 comments

  1. Palm Beach Democrat · · Reply

    If Ruddy is so bad why are he and Newsmax always on MSNBC?

    Many Democrats here locally work well with Ruddy and Newsmax. Bizpac review has been favorable to some Democrats also. Ruddy has supported Democrats in contested races before.

    This ideological litmus test and hits on any thing you deem right wing is terrible and HURTS our party.

    Palm Beach still delivered a 100,000 vote margin to Clinton and along with Broward is the most Democratic county in terms of legislative delegations.

    1. If Ruddy is so bad why are he and Newsmax always on MSNBC?

      I was made aware of this after I wrote the piece. I don’t watch MSNBC at all (I feel it’s as biased as FOX and as a liberal I prefer getting my news unfiltered and reported by journalists not political commentators, then I process the information and formulate and opinion) but do watch CNN regularly so reacted to Ruddy being given a platform.

      Many Democrats here locally work well with Ruddy and Newsmax. Bizpac review has been favorable to some Democrats also. Ruddy has supported Democrats in contested races before.

      Like whom?

      Palm Beach still delivered a 100,000 vote margin to Clinton and along with Broward is the most Democratic county in terms of legislative delegations.

      True, but the percentage margin delivered by PBC was 27 points in 2000 (among recorded votes – probably actually higher) and about 15 in 2000. That’s a decline. In the same period, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola and Hillsborough have gotten more Democratic – Broward despite many of the types of seniors that made the area a Democratic bastion dying off (same as PBC) has held about the same margins for Dem nominees throughout the last 20 years.

      1. Palm Beach Democrat · ·

        He’s a conservative. Not disputing that but he has supported Dave Aronberg especially when the Palm Beach Post was slandering him, Maria Sachs and gave lots of cash to the Clinton Foundation.

        The fact you don’t watch MSNBC makes you biased and not a true progressive. Democrats watch that channel and if you don’t, you don’t really understand us. CNN is garbage.

  2. John W Gaillard · · Reply

    Kartik, you are not a true progressive and I have been called a white supremacist. Interesting year so far.

    1. I’ve been called a white supremacist also in this crazy period – and I guess by the literal definition some new fangled progressives adhere to I am – because I wrongly recognize the contributions white people have made to American society instead of seeing them all as oppressors and want to reach out to them to support our policies and candidates though we should of course only be reaching out to whites of a certain income level, social status or geographic locale. Silly me! I guess I am a white supremacist and you are as well!

  3. […] Palm Beach rapidly becoming the epicenter of the alt-right and new right media , Trump’s visits to southeast Florida give him potentially a friendlier media than he finds in […]

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