Blog post

Does Fox News Really Help Republicans?

A big difference between Democrats and Republicans is that the latter make much better use of party-aligned media to effectively translate talking points to their constituents. Granted, there are plenty of Democrat-aligned outlets out there: evening talk shows on MSNBC to begin with, as well as numerous websites, podcasts and social media accounts. But there is nothing with the influence of Fox News and conservative talk radio. The exact importance of this transmission belt turns out to be a more complicated question. Dan Pfeiffer, a podcaster and former communications guru for President Barack Obama, argued in an interview with Greg Sargent of The Washington Post that this is a really big deal and that Democrats are at a huge disadvantage. I recommend checking it out. But my first reaction is, well, communications people tend to overstate the importance of communications. Of course, words matter in politics. Still, it’s hard to show that either side outperforms fundamentals, such as the state of the economy, over the long term. President Joe Biden is unpopular now because inflation has been high and gasoline prices in particular have skyrocketed. But last year, when the economy was in better shape and before new waves of Covid put everyone in a bad mood, he was reasonably popular. What changed wasn’t Fox News; what has changed are the events. Likewise, all the power of the Republican-aligned media has absolutely failed to make Donald Trump a popular president. I would also point out that having an extremely efficient information conveyor belt is not without costs. Take the current debate over gun legislation, in which Republicans have struggled to find an argument that anyone outside of their staunchest supporters can take seriously. On Wednesday, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise had this to say, referring to the 9/11 attacks: “Airplanes were used that day as a weapon to kill thousands and bring terror to our country. There was no conversation about banning planes. Takeaway, veteran journalist and private pilot James Fallows: