Sunday, May 17, 2015


James Fallows thinks Fox News is doing serious harm to the GOP:
Let me recommend for your weekend reading, or for your weekday reading if you’re seeing it then, a detailed study by Bruce Bartlett called “How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics.” You can download the 18-page PDF from this site of the Social Science Research Network.

... Bartlett’s accumulation of detail show[s] (a) that Fox’s core viewers are factually worse-informed than people who follow other sources, and even those who don’t follow news at all, and (b) that the mode of perpetual outrage that is Fox’s goal and effect has become a serious problem for the Republican party, in that it pushes its candidates to sound always-outraged themselves.
It beats me how having ill-informed voters is a bad thing for the GOP if what the voters think they know keeps them voting Republican -- so let's look at the other apparent problem. (And note that we're supposed to take this analysis seriously because Bartlett is a veteran of the Reagan and Poppy Bush administrations, and has worked with Ron Paul, which means he's not saying this stuff because he likes the Democrats.)

This is Bartlett's key assertion:
On mood, Bartlett includes this quote after the 2012 election from Lincoln Mitchell, a political scientist at Columbia:
“Fox has now become a problem for the Republican Party because it keeps a far right base mobilized and angry, making it hard for the party to move to the center or increase its appeal, as it must do to remain electorally competitive....One of the reasons Mitt Romney was so unable to pivot back to the center was due to the drumbeat at Fox, which contributed to forcing him to the right during the primary season.”
But here's the thing: In 2010 and 2014, Republicans did amazingly well at the polls. They did so well that they now utterly dominate American politics, apart from the presidency:
Republicans now control the Senate and have their largest majority in the House since World War II.

... there are more 7,000 state legislative seats in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

... Republicans now control more than 4,100 seats -- their highest number since 1920. After taking over 11 legislative chambers from Democrats in 2014, Republicans now control 30 state legislatures completely -- and have full control of state government (state legislature and governorship) in 23 states. Democrats, by contrast, have full control of 11 state legislatures and total control of state government in just seven states.
Why do you think this is? It's because Fox, along with talk radio, has found a way to turn rabidly partisan politics into mass entertainment, at least for the third of the country that's conservative. Fox and talk radio keep these people thoroughly focused on politics at all times. The conservative media keeps Republicans wanting to vote, even in off-year elections, when many of the rest of us don't bother. Fox isn't bad for the GOP -- it's terrific for the GOP.

Well, OK -- it's terrific except in presidential years. Democrats seem to have an electoral lock on the presidency. That's really bad for the GOP, right?

We'll see if that holds in 2016. Meanwhile, how will we recall Barack Obama's presidency? As an impressive first two years followed by six years in which nothing the president wanted to do could get done. How terrible is that for the GOP, really? Especially when the Fox-driven anger at the president led to huge gains for Republicans in congressional, state, and local elections -- a pattern that could easily be repeated in a Hillary Clinton presidency.

When Fox pushes Republicans so far to the right that they start losing governorships and state legislatures, then the GOP will have a serious Fox problem. We're nowhere near that point yet.


Ken_L said...

It sometimes seems that Democrats are too polite to come out and tell plain truths about the conservative agenda, or maybe they're scared it will backfire because Americans will actually like what they hear.

For me, THE issue for 2016 is whether the US continues to barge its way into one foreign conflict after another, bankrupting the nation in the process and progressively discrediting it in the eyes of the world, or whether it returns to the more sensible, less interventionist positions between Vietnam and PNAC-9/11. Democrats ought to be warning the American public, at every opportunity, that Republicans are Hell-bent on taking the nation into new wars that will make Iraq and Afghanistan look like tame preliminaries.

But perhaps they believe Hillary will do much the same thing. There is that grim possibility.

Unknown said...

Good for most Republicans, bad for the few who get positioned as RINOs by challengers.

Jersey McJones said...

That point does not look like it's coming at all. What instead I think we're seeing is a long-term political regionalization.


Beth said...

Look at it from the larger perspectives:

Yep, the GOP is unlikely to win the White House again for the foreseeable future. That's the brass ring, right? And voters are rejecting them on that front by large margins.

The president appoints Supreme Court justices and we have, possibly, four whose seats will be filled by the next president. The shapes the nation for decades to come.

Yes, Republicans are winning governorships and state legislatures of late, but in large part because of gerrymandering. Once that's widely ruled to be illegal or when 2020 rolls around, that advantage goes away.

And in the meantime, when they do get state control, look at what they're doing to their states. Moral Mondays in North Carolina. People are pissed off. Brownback's near-total desttruction of his state economically? Yes, people, idiotically, voted him back into office but he stands as as example to the nation of just what not to do, of what happens when the GOP's in control.

I see more and more stories about Joe Average Republicans waking up and realizing that their party is doing nothing for them. They're waking up to the fact that they've been sold a bill of goods. Like the man who was able to retire because he's able to afford health insurance under Obamacare. He sees that his party has no alternative. He sees that if the GOP gets its way and repeals it, he'll have to go back to work, because the GOP has no alternative. He's really thinking about voting for Hillary.

And most Republican voters are older. Which means the base is literally dying off.

In the shorter term, yes, the GOP still has some control. But whether it realizes it, it's committing suicide.

Victor said...

Yes the GOP is committing suicide.

But it'll be a murder-suicide.

They're determined to kill the rest of America in their efforts.