It was the night of November 6th, 2012 and I had turned down invitations from a few Republicans to attend their “victory party” at a swanky club in Lafayette, Louisiana. After hundreds of hours devoted to making sure President Obama was re-elected, I knew how this story was going to end, and the last thing I wanted to do was be the sole happy person in a sea of people desperately doing the math that would make them feel better as Republicans.
So I sat home and watched Fox News with a few beers so I could enjoy this blissful moment of schadenfreude alone. As the events unfolded and the disbelief on their faces grew comical, I realized something — Fox News is literally destroying the Republican party.
Until the advent of Fox News, the GOP was center-right. Now, it’s Tea Party hard right and it’s going ever further towards the brink, despite what the establishment has done in their attempts to stop it. Fox News and their hardcore viewers forced Mitt Romney so far to the right in the primaries that he could never adjust back to the center in time to win the election. I believe that all along, they knew Mitt was in serious trouble and could not admit to it because it would hurt ratings and the imminent victory narrative they were feeding viewers. They could not concede that Romney’s campaign was in serious danger and get voters to the polls because it would contradict the story of Republican inevitability they had been telling for over a year.
The core GOP establishment overall isn’t necessarily all rabidly racist, xenophobic or intent on shrinking government to where it can be drowned in a bathtub. Just like Fox, they’re interested in money and power. That’s their only real common ground and ironically, common kryptonite. The combination of for profit media and politics has always been a toxic marriage. Going forward, if the GOP continues to rely on Fox and other right-wing outlets to be their media mouthpieces, they are doomed to political irrelevance sooner than later.
Fox cannot continue to make ratings by talking about bipartisanship and finding reasonable solutions to the problems we face as a nation. It cannot promote anything that contributes to the long term viability of the GOP because it is so concentrated on ratings and advertising money now. It is not in the interests of Roger Ailes to attract minority viewers or a serious chunk of the younger generations, which are the only hope for the future of the GOP, because it would alienate the Tea Party faithful that make up the majority of their audience.
The GOP absolutely cannot survive as a party by relying on Fox News viewers because that demographic is dying off. At the same time, they find themselves in a short-term Catch-22 situation by not continuing to pander to the faithful early evening viewers who believe Obama is the Anti-Christ Muslim Fascist Communist sent by Satan himself, because if that voting bloc does not show up, the whole house of cards comes tumbling down. They sold their party’s soul to the Dixiecrats and the religious right and it’ll be a long, hard road out of hell to make the trip back to relevance.
After the election, the Tea Party felt they had been lied to (and rightly so) and decided to boycott Fox. For a little while, it seemed that Fox was trying to swing back to the center. Their ratings began to plunge, so what happened next? Suddenly we were swarmed with scandals, and now we have the hiring of Allen West and the return of Sarah Palin as contributors. Because they’re “fair and balanced,” dont’cha know.
I watch Fox News for two reasons. Number one is for new material to write about, and number two is watching the slow demise of the empire of Roger Ailes as he takes down the Grand Old Party with him. Now, hand me another shot of whiskey with a schadenfreude chaser. I’m going to enjoy this.
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