Salon's Joan Walsh on the return of Sarah Palin to Fox News:
Palin's return to Fox shows that Roger Ailes knows the GOP can't win back the White House in 2016, so he may as well focus on consolidating his audience, and keeping them comfortable as they watch the further decline of what Bill O'Reilly called "the white establishment" that was vanquished by Barack Obama.I disagree.
Roger Ailes knows that the Fox propaganda effort didn't work out well for the Republicans, and he knows Palin was a noteworthy part of that failure -- but I think he assumes that she's an excellent person to have out there going into a midterm election, when turnout will be low and the question is which side can rally its base. Maybe Palin will be gone from Fox again after November 2014, but she's useful to the Ministry of Conservative Truth now.
Also, for all the talk about Republican rebranding, the party clearly thinks that can't happen in any serious way without alienating the base. Maybe immigration reform can squeak by, but don't even count on that -- the base is resisting. The game plan for victory in 2014 and 2016 is scandal piled on scandal -- real scandals, phony scandals, Obama scandals, State Department scandals meant to harm Hillary, whatever's available. That plus suppression of Democratic voters (no, the Supreme Court did not make that impossible today, as you'll know if you read this SCOTUSblog post), plus persuading a credulous mainstream media that the GOP is full of promising and relatively fresh faces (Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Scott freaking Walker), and, yes, the GOP has a chance.
Or at least I'm sure Ailes thinks so. I think he believes the Obama presidency is melting down like Nixon's. I think he expects Obamacare to be a disaster -- or at least to have a sufficiently bumpy rollout that, even if it works fairly smoothly, it can be portrayed as one.
I just can't believe he's writing 2016 off. He probably shouldn't -- Democrats blew a 17-point lead in 1988, and lost (or "lost") what should have been a gimme election in 2000 despite peace and prosperity -- although Democrats do have a natural demographic advantage.
But Ailes will err on the side of pleasing the base because he wants it all, as he always has -- he wants the love of the base and victory from the masses. He thought he could have it all in 2012, and I'm sure he still thinks so. That's his nature.