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How Fox News Is Destroying The Republican Party

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a report from MediaMatters

Roger Ailes, image from wikipedia

Wannabe kingmaker Roger Ailes is facing an open revolt.

More and more  despondent conservatives are expressing alarm over the unfolding Republican primary season and what they see as the party's dwindling chances of defeating President Obama in November. Spooked at the general elections prospects facing frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich (especially  Gingrich), members of the so-called Republican Establishment seem to want to reboot the election season and try their nominating luck again.

Sorry, it's too late.

If the current state of concern transforms into a larger, enveloping blame game, Fox News chairman Ailes ought be a looming target. True, conservatives in recent years have shown virtually no interest in critiquing, let alone trying to reign in, Ailes' empire. Still, it's becoming increasingly clear that Fox's programming and the radical, fear-based agenda it's setting for Republicans is now doing lasting damage to the Grand Old Party.

That's because Fox News isn't simply offering a rightward take on the day's events, or innocently providing Republican-friendly commentary, of course.  It's leading an exhausting, day-in, day-out attack campaign against Obama, Democrats and all their liberal allies. (Real or imagined.) Its relentless, paranoid crusade falls well outside the mainstream of American politics, which is why the Republican primary season, so proudly sponsored by Fox News, is shaping up to be such an  embarrassment.

Make no mistake, kingmaker Ailes has made sure his channel's profoundly un-serious stamp permeates this year's GOP contest. For more and more spooked Republicans though, it's a stamp of failure and looming defeat.

For Ailes and company, that slash-and-burn formula works wonders in terms of super-serving its hardcore, hard-right audience of three million viewers. But in terms of supporting a serious, national campaign and a serious, national conversation? It's not working. At all.

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As Fox News has moved in and essentially replaced the RNC as the driving electoral force in Republican politics today, and with Ailes ensconced in his kingmaker role, candidates have had to bow down to Fox in search of votes and the channel's coveted free airtime. That means campaigns have been forced to become part of the channel's culture of personal destruction, as well as its signature self-pity.

The truth is, the Republican Establishment all but ceded control of the party, or at least the public face of the party, to Fox News (and Rush Limbaugh) in January, 2009. Party leaders, demoralized by John McCain's electoral landslide defeat, faded into the background and obediently followed Fox News' often-hysterical lead as Rupert Murdoch's cable channel unveiled an unprecedented effort to demonize and delegitimize the newly elected president.  (In the Fox-led world, it's conventional wisdom  that Obama's a foreign, race-baiting Marxist who undermines Israel and is determined to destroy the American way of life.)

With Fox News at the irresponsible helm, the conservative movement in America, including the emerging Tea Party, became first and foremost a media  movement, and one that gleefully cut ties with common sense and decency.  (See: Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh.)

As blogger Andrew Sullivan noted this week:

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The Republican Establishment is Rush Limbaugh, Roger Ailes, Karl Rove, and their mainfold products, from Hannity to Levin. They rule on the talk radio airwaves and on the GOP's own "news" channel, Fox.

With media outlets setting the conservative agenda, as well as raising campaign funds and boosting GOP candidates, it was Fox News that quickly transformed itself into the Opposition Party. It was Roger Ailes who, officially or unofficially, began to wear two hats: Program Director at Fox News, Chairman of the RNC.

In terms of whipping up bouts of anti-Obama hysteria, the crass Fox approach enjoyed some short-term success. However, that same media movement is now three long and rhetorically repetitive years into its Obama crusade and trying to nominate a presidential candidate via an extended national campaign.  According to more and more worried conservatives, the results on display are disastrous.

Of course, conservatives should have thought that through before handing over the reins to Ailes and his misinformation minions. Indeed, none of this is unexpected. It's all entirely predictable. It's what happens when a mainstream political movement embraces a radical media strategy like the one being promoted by Fox News; the movement marches itself off a cliff.

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Eric Boehlert is the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush (Free Press, 2006). He worked for five years as a senior writer for, where he wrote extensively about media and politics. Prior to that, he worked as a (more...)

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Progressives have this odd habit... Progressives, ... by Phil Weingart on Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 at 11:51:05 AM
 with your examples, and then your assertions... by GUY P. FRASER on Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 at 1:58:35 PM
If Fux News ruins the Republican party, it means t... by Eric Arthur Blair on Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 at 12:25:15 PM
If this were true I would gladly cheer Fox. The G... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Jan 31, 2012 at 9:56:46 PM
Excellent analysis, Eric. You are absolutely corre... by Howard Schneider on Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 at 1:13:00 PM
....most likely... by GUY P. FRASER on Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 at 2:02:52 PM
Remember when R. Ailes appeared before the Congres... by Judith Stevens on Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 at 2:02:09 PM
For a minute there I was afraid that I would have ... by John Sanchez Jr. on Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 at 3:13:13 PM
This nasty and ridiculous situation in the Republi... by Ralph Dratman on Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 at 4:17:19 PM
One of the most interesting facts in history is th... by George Schmitt on Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 at 4:18:51 PM
The plot of Peckinpah's movie "Bring Me the Head o... by Donnie McLeod on Sunday, Jan 29, 2012 at 5:43:54 PM
nobody could hope to beat Obama, this one is for l... by molly cruz on Monday, Jan 30, 2012 at 9:26:20 AM
True?... by JROVNAK on Monday, Jan 30, 2012 at 10:46:35 AM
Why would the corporate elite, our ruling class, w... by Robert James on Monday, Jan 30, 2012 at 1:57:44 PM
Why on earth do the Republicans want to take over ... by Robin Kirby on Tuesday, Jan 31, 2012 at 1:25:26 AM