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Democrats shouldn’t envy Fox News’ influence


Democrats sometimes refer to Fox News and other conservative outlets with envy, presuming that right-wing media influence gives the GOP a large advantage in electoral politics. Even if Democrats have an easier time making their case in “neutral” media — which Republican voters and party actors strongly believe but for which evidence is hard to come by — wouldn’t it be nice to be able to reach easily supporters, with barely a filter?

Democrats should be careful what they wish for.

On the one hand, ceding a central role to party-aligned media puts the preferences of Fox News, radio hosts and their bosses above those of other party actors.

Having such a powerful media megaphone in their corner also tends to make politicians and political parties lazy. Why refine his arguments when they will be adopted with little control by content-hungry media? This makes it difficult for Republicans to speak to the nation’s majority who are not listening to Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and other highly politicized media figures.

Two examples of this laziness, one small and one large, emerged last week.

The little one was Republicans’ decision to ridicule Vice President Kamala Harris for showing up at a White House event by saying ‘I’m a woman sitting at the table wearing a blue suit’ and mentioning her favorite pronouns . Whether one feels that declaring his pronouns is inclusive courtesy or a sign of over-enlightenment, the GOP mockery ignored that Harris was merely following the suggestions of those who organized the meeting with disability rights leaders .

It was a joke that played well in right-wing media but likely didn’t broaden the party’s appeal, something the GOP needs to do if it wants to win back the White House in 2024.

The most significant moment was a decision by Senate Republicans to reject what had been a bipartisan bill to help veterans who were exposed to toxic burning stoves while serving overseas. An earlier version of the bill passed the Senate earlier this year, but last week failed to overcome a filibuster when 25 Republicans changed votes. The reasons for this change were related to overall fiscal policy. Or at least that’s what the Republicans say; the change is also suspected to have been prompted by GOP anger at Democrats over the surprise deal between Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin on a big health care, climate and security package. taxation.

Whether their concerns are well-founded or not, Republicans have taken almost all the blame on veterans’ groups and advocates, who say open-air trash burning near military bases has led to cancer and other health issues. health. The mainstream media is following the example of these groups and pouring on Senate Republicans.

It was completely predictable. The non-aligned media are not really neutral, but their prejudices are not based on partisanship; they are more often linked to standards that have been built up over the years. And one of those standards is that veterans are always good. So while many battles over spending are treated as disputes between two parties who are entitled to their positions, battles over veterans’ legislation are generally covered up as if there were an obvious good side and a bad side. obvious side. And the Republicans were on the wrong side.

There are other reflexive biases in the media. Budget deficits are invariably viewed as bad. Curiously, high voter turnout is still seen as a good thing, while laws to make it easier to vote are subject to bilateral treatment, even though there are good reasons to think the opposite should be true. But it’s hard to think of a much stronger media standard than that of veterans being good.

Senate Republicans should have known that opposing the burn pit bill would get them in trouble. But it seems they didn’t see it coming. And while it’s hard to prove specific effects like this, the main problem is probably that Republicans are so accustomed to conveying their talking points to their willing partners in Republican-aligned media that their ability to make the case solid arguments to the rest of the media – and the rest of the electorate – has atrophied.

That’s been true for a while, and it’s only gotten worse. Failing to speak to a broader audience won’t necessarily make a difference in an election, especially when Republicans don’t have the White House or a majority in Congress, as elections are contested over big issues. such as economy, war and peace. . But it probably has an impact at the margin, and when elections are close, even small effects can alter the outcome. It also complicates governance and sound representation. Democrats shouldn’t envy that.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and politics. A former political science professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University, he wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.

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