The GOP’s Benghazi Obsession Explained!

Benghazi!, the long-running off-off-Broadway musical extravaganza, is still packing them in. Ed Kilgore points today to a brief review of the current state of play from NPR’s Ari Shapiro, who makes an interesting point at the end:

Benghazi has become a sort of catchword. To Republicans, it symbolizes everything bad about the Obama administration. It’s not the first word to fill that role. At the start of the president’s first term, it was Obamacare. Later, Solyndra.

….Data from the Pew Research Center suggest not every voter is following this story equally. In November, Pew found that Republicans were twice as likely to follow Benghazi closely as Democrats or independents.

That could be because conservative media hammered the story nonstop. But the discrepancy suggests that this rallying cry could be effective at ginning up the base without driving away people on the other side, who may not be paying attention.

OK, I guess that’s obvious. It’s obvious after someone points it out, anyway: If you’re going to make fundraising hay out of a pseudo-scandal, it’s actually better if you focus on something that the rest of the world thinks is too ridiculous to bother following. Not only does this help with the fundraising pitch—the liberal media is part of the cover-up!—but you don’t lose independent votes since non-wingnuts have simply tuned the whole thing out. This helps solve a mystery: why do congressional Republicans spend so much time obsessed with such palpable nonsense. Aren’t they embarrassed? Answer: Maybe,1 but it’s actually safer not to stray outside the fever swamp and take the risk of independents realizing what you’re spending your time on.

1Then again, maybe not.