British newspaper The Guardian has an excellent article on how Fox News is basically running the Republican primary, and as a result is helping Obama’s reelection bid, maybe even giving Obama a landslide victory.
You don’t believe that Fox News is running the Republican primary? After all, Fox hasn’t endorsed any candidates. But it is more subtle than that. What Fox does is suddenly give a lot of attention to a specific candidate (for example by giving them more appearances) and then starts feeding them softball questions (like when Bill O’Reilly asked Rick Perry on his Nov 18 show “Do you believe that Barack Obama — the person, not the President, the person because a lot of conservatives do believe this — doesn’t like America?”), and their poll numbers go magically up.
This has been carefully documented by Media Matters (they call it the “Fox Primary”). Indeed, just days before Newt Gingrich surged in the Republican polls, Media Matters shows that he was suddenly given the most appearances on Fox News. Not bad for a candidate who has little cash and whose campaign staff all quit back in June. Who needs a campaign when you have Fox News on your side?
Republican political operative Dick Morris (ironically while appearing on Fox and Friends) noted that Newt Gingrich didn’t have to actually, you know, campaign in Iowa in order to win the Iowa caucus. As Morris explained “This is a phenomenon of this year’s election. You don’t win Iowa in Iowa. you win it on this couch. You win it on Fox News.” As a result of Gingrich’s multiple appearances on Fox News, as Fox host Brian Kilmeade put it “With only one office in Iowa, he’s running away with the state! It’s almost unheard of!” Funny, that.
But the real problem is that as a corporation, Fox News doesn’t care about winning elections, they only care about ratings and making money. You don’t get high ratings by promoting candidates who have sensible, workable policies. You get high ratings from sensationalism, by serving up continuous outrage and fear to your viewers. Fox News promotes candidates who make for good TV, not who make for good politics. This explains why Fox virtually ignores candidates like Jon Huntsman or even Mitt Romney, both former state governors with impressive records.
Conservative Andew Sullivan calls this the “Media Industrial Complex“. As he explains, Fox News needs “provocative, polarising media stars” to guarantee high ratings. When there is so much money to be made from politics-as-entertainment” they need “talk-show hosts as president, not governors or legislators.”
As David Frum, the former Dubya speechwriter said “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us – and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”
By adopting positions acceptable to Fox News, candidates push themselves into positions that make them less appealing to the national electorate. So Fox News makes lots of money, but the Republican Party crumbles. For example, Fox cheered Republicans to raise the debt ceiling in November, prompting the downgrading of America’s credit rating. Ouch! The Arizona official who pioneered their draconian anti-immigration measures (with heavy support from Fox News) was recalled. The Ohio law prohibiting collective bargaining rights for public sector workers went down in a landslide.
Even more interesting is that Florida Governor Rick Scott, heavily promoted to a big victory by Fox, is now the least popular governor in the US with a dismal 26% approval rating. What’s ironic is that Scott’s low popularity is because he is doing exactly what he promised to do in the campaign: cut the budget and cut government expenses. It turns out that while people claim they want smaller government, they don’t want to lose any program that benefits them (hence the “Government keep your hands off my Medicare” signs).
So Fox News candidates have hurt the GOP in key electoral states like Florida and Ohio. That can only help Obama get reelected.