Why Fox News Going Full Culture War Is Good News For Biden
On 3/31/2021, the liberal blog PressRun pointed out something rather odd about Fox News’s coverage of Joe Biden — they’ve barely done any of it. As Eric Boehlert put it:
Today though, Fox News can’t seem to muster the same anger and excitement to consistently denounce Biden [that they had for Obama], who to many viewers probably looks like their brother, uncle, or father — a built-in advantage of being a white man in American politics. Obsessed with fighting cultural wars while Biden enjoys solid public support after signing the widely popular Covid relief bill into law, Fox News remains adrift in the Biden era, as Trump remains mostly in seclusion in Palm Beach, Florida. (Trump insurrectionists have shown no interest in protesting Biden in the streets.)
Instead of leading a large scale revolt against Biden and his sweeping legislative proposals, Fox News prefers to play small ball. “Less than two months have passed since Joe Biden’s inauguration, and the network is already responding to the country’s new era by obsessing over similarly absurd and imaginary battlefronts,” Vanity Fair noted this month. “The network spent an hour and nine minutes of airtime on the supposed cancellation of Dr. Seuss on Tuesday — more than twice as long as its coverage of the coronavirus vaccination effort on the same day.”
Back in early 2020, in an article for the now-defunct website The Liberty Hawk (although it can still be found in my second book The Establishment Is Dead: Long Live The Establishment), I coined the term “good economy problems” to explain the rise of social issues in politics. Basically, during a time of plenty, people are much more likely to be willing to fight over issues like gay marriage, race, and transgender bathroom rights. Meanwhile, during a time of few, people are much more likely to not have opinions on social issues, as they’re too busy trying to keep their head above water.
Compare two different times Republicans managed to gain a majority in Congress: 1994 and 2010. In 1994, the Clinton economy was booming after the recession brought on at the end of the administration of the first George Bush. As such, Republicans running in the midterms focused on social issues, getting a massive backing from the Religious Right warning of an oncoming hoard of secularized and sexual revolutions if Democrats kept control of Congress.
However, in 2010 the Obama economy was sluggish, barely recovering after American had entered the Great Recession two years earlier. As such, Republicans in 2010 were much more worried about economic issues such as the rising deficit, increased government spending, and, of course, Obamacare. (Mind you, both social and economic issues were used in both cases, however, the average voter picked a Republican candidate for different reasons each time.)
Two years before Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, Pat Buchanan gave the infamous “culture war” speech at the 1992 Republican Convention. The speech became infamous, with Molly Ivins famously quipping that it “probably sounded better in the original German.” The speech has since been considered a major part of what stopped George H.W. Bush from getting re-elected in 1992, although that was not what many thought it was going to be, many commentators at the time believed that this was good “red meat” to “rally up the base” in favor of Bush, who Buchanan had run a primary campaign against that same election.
However, the Republican Party has used cultural war issues to their advantage before, the 2004 crusade against same-sex marriage being a good example of that. However, in 2004, although the economy was not great, it was not in a recession. The economy was in a massive recession in 1992, and Bill Clinton was running primarily on economic issues in that election (“It’s the economy stupid”). As such, the Republican Party focusing on “culture wars” while Americans were starving made them look out of touch.
Do you want to know a little secret about being a political commentator? Playing offensive, or attacking the other team, is always easier than playing defense, or defending your team. (And yes, political commentators all have teams, no matter how much we want to pretend otherwise. Some of us make our teams “the truth” instead of one political party, but that’s a team nonetheless.) As such, a Republican Propaganda mill like Fox News should have a much easier time under the Biden Administration than they did under Trump, because now they’re attacking the other side instead of defending their side.
Under Obama, a few Republicans allowed this small truth to slip. On the 1/16/2009 edition of his radio show, the late Rush Limbaugh dropped this infamous comment about the then-incoming President while talking about an offer from The Wall Street Journal:
If I wanted Obama to succeed, I’d be happy the Republicans have laid down. And I would be encouraging Republicans to lay down and support him. Look, what he’s talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don’t want this to work. So I’m thinking of replying to the guy, “Okay, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails.”
This statement was met with a large amount of controversy, but what Limbaugh said made perfect sense from a business perspective. With a Democrat in the White House, he has four years of material, and if he’s a failure on top of just being a Democrat, then that means he has more to talk about. (Got to fill up those three-hours a day somehow, am I right?)
Over the course of Obama’s first two years, Limbaugh got some of his highest ratings since he first got popular back during the Clinton Administration. He later became the leader of the Tea Party movement, which, as mentioned above, came to power in large part because Obama failed to recover the economy before the 2010 midterms.
In the same vein, I have no doubt that Fox News wanted Biden to fail, because that just means they have more to talk about. However, it seems like Biden has done such a great job as President that Fox has no choice but to focus on other issues. Biden not holding a press conference for his first eight weeks in office or making a gaffe here and there are the only things they got on him.
While Fox obsessing over “the cancellation of Dr. Suess” may cause some to roll their eyes, it’s important to note that this is actually a good sign for the Democrats moving forward. Fox is so starved for content, so bored out of their minds, that they’re non-stop covering a few books being pulled for racial stereotypes.
Here’s what Jen Psaki needs to do during her next Press Conference, she needs to inform the Republicans that Biden is the reason they can focus on social issues. She needs to tell everyone that the Biden Administration is doing such a good job that even the loyal opposition, the spewers of Trump thought, cannot consistently go after the new President. Doing so would be such a massive power move on her part, and it would also be entirely true.