Embracing the Fairness Doctrine now is a fatal mistake for any political party or politician. Assuming it could be enacted, an endless line of problems – many likely to be insurmountable – would make implementation exceedingly difficult.
Yet, the reason the Fairness Doctrine will not be pursued in the near future – certainly not in the next 2 years – is due to political planning, not practical concerns.
Feasibility aside, pursuing the Fairness Doctrine will not be done by any politician that considers strategy in his decisions.
Talk Radio, the longstanding thorn in the side of Democrats, recently provided another reason for Democrats to again consider ways to lessen the airwaves influence over American politics, after radio’s most recent show of strength to date – the destruction of the Immigration Reform bill. Even veteran Republicans were taken unaware. Senator and Presidential candidate John McCain, Republican co-sponsor and leading proponent of the bill, may have been mortally wounded. McCain’s campaign contributions have plummeted, and over fifty staffers have been fired.
It seems quite logical that the Immigration Reform issue was less personal to talk radio audiences – how much more seriously would a perceived attack on radio, and hence the listeners themselves be? That is a question the wise political strategist of any political persuasion understands should go unanswered.
Talk radio is also much more susceptible to overhaul from the Fairness Doctrine than other media. Radio has the highest concentration of conservative voices. There is no other traditional media type that can be singled out as obviously liberal by the Republicans to match the example of talk radio that can be used by Democrats. Even though some Republicans may now be frightened at what has become of their traditional stronghold – talk radio and its listeners – they are still aware that the current environment of radio is still greatly advantageous to them. They will fiercely seek to protect it, at least for now.
Should the DNC push the Fairness Doctrine now, with the title on the line in ‘08? From Democrats individually or collectively, this would be an unconscionable misstep. Apathy in ’06 left conservatives at home and let Democrats clinch some victories. With conservatives running from and turning on Bush himself, the Republican Party is somewhat fragmented and vulnerable. Pushing the Fairness Doctrine runs a huge risk of re-solidifying the Republican base, and driving conservatives to the polls in droves.
With so many other traditional party issues now as strong as ever - Iraq, healthcare, the environment - pushing the Doctrine now is wasteful and reckless.
Democratic candidates would be wise to avoid this issue altogether, if possible.
If politicians of either party wish to entertain this issue, it should remain in their minds, not on their lips – at least until after September ‘08.