The past few years have brought forth some startling revelations about politics in America: how power hungry our leaders can be, how far white nationalism can take a person in politics, and that the Republican Party doesn't exist anymore. Yes, you read that right; the actions of the last few years have caused me to realize that one of the two major American parties has faded away without our noticing. Now, how exactly does a political party with over 32 million members and countless millions more sympathizers vanish without anyone noticing? The answer to this is actually quite simple, Fox News.
It has been an age old problem for political parties of any stripe as to how to inform supporters and whip up partisan fervor and to this end most have at one time or another created various party news organs to educate and inform. These have ranged from the hyper-partisan editorials that dominated the early political life of the American republic to the infamous State news organizations of one-party dictatorships. Fox News would seem to be another in a line of partisan news sites towing the party line, but looks can be deceiving.
To understand how Fox News is different from its news brethren, we need to start back at the beginning. Fox News was a product of the Nixon White House, only a place so warped in paranoia and political backstabbing could dream something as noxious as a propaganda outfit masquerading as a news organization. It premiered in the mid-90's and quickly enmeshed itself in conservative politics becoming the chief cheerleader of the Bush presidency and arch critic of the Obama administration in body and soul. Fox News has seen its greatest height, however, most recently with the presidency of Donald Trump who is an avid fan of the network, watching it almost religiously every day, and hiring several of its former executives as advisors.
When Fox arrived on the scene, conservatives were all too happy to welcome it into their lives with open arms, glad to finally have a leg up on the dastardly liberals opposing them. They never really questioned it as Fox talking points began to creep into their platforms, and their voters and the Fox viewership began to resemble each other more and more. The closest analogy for what has been taking place in the GOP that I can think of is one of those funguses that takes over the body of an insect and begins pupating it long after it has died. Fox grew for years within the GOP gathering strength and gaining influence until it burst forth in 2016 to take control and push its agenda through. Fox News is no longer the news wing of a political party; it is now a news organization with a political wing. Perhaps the most compelling evidence of this takeover is that all the think tanks, policy advisors, congressmen, and senators in the employ of the GOP have less influence than an episode of Fox and Friends upon our president.
So is there a chance then that the GOP as we knew it could ever return, the short term answer is no. Fox has an iron grip over the Republican base and with the death of Senator McCain I fear that no other major Republican politician has the courage to stand up to the darker impulses of the base. In the longer view it is harder to say, Fox News is ascendant right now, but they have hitched themselves to a demographically sinking ship, an older and whiter base of cable TV watchers. In the coming decades this group is going to make it difficult to sustain a lucrative TV network, let alone a political movement. It is not unthinkable that after a few cycles of being beaten at the polls and some demographic turnover, the GOP may be able to reform itself into a viable political party again. For the meantime though, we are stuck in a world in which one of the major political parties has been hijacked by a TV network, and major policy decisions are decided by sound bite. God help us all.