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How Fox News Screwed the GOP

The grand experiment of marrying a political movement around a cable TV channel was a grand failure in 2012.

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Of course, conservatives should have thought that through before handing over the control of a political movement to Ailes and his misinformation minions. They should have thought twice about the long-term implication of having irresponsible media outlets like Fox supersede leadership within the Republican Party, and should have figured out first if Fox News had an off switch to use in case of emergencies.

It doesn't.

Yet as Fox News segued into the de facto leader of the Republican Party, becoming the driving electoral force, and with Ailes entrenched in his kingmaker role, candidates had to bow down to Fox in search of votes and the channel's coveted free airtime.

And Andrew Sullivan  noted in January:

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.

There's a reason New York magazine labeled Ailes "the head of the Republican Party." And that's why a GOP source told the magazine, "You can't run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger Every single candidate has consulted with Roger."

That meant campaigns were forced to become part of the channel's culture of personal destruction, as well as to blanket itself in Fox's signature self-pity. ( Here was Mitt Romney adopting the right-wing whine that the conspiratorial press was out to sink his campaign.)

Still, the right-wing bubble was a comfortable place to inhabit if you thought of Obama as an historic monster, or if you required to be reminded of that fact many time a day, every day of the year. The bubble is the place where followers for four years were fed the feel-good GOP narrative about how Obama's presidency was a fiasco, that the Americans suffered a severe case of 2008 buyer's remorse, and that the president's re-election defeat was all but pre-ordained.

The one-part-panic, one-part-denial message may have cheered obsessive Obama-haters, but it didn't prepare conservatives for the reality of the campaign season. And it cost the GOP a lost year in the Fox News bubble.

Eric Boehlert is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, and a former senior writer for Salon. Boehlert's first book, "Lapdogs: How The Press Rolled Over for Bush," was published in May. He can be reached at eboehlert@aol.com.

 
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