Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Deeper Meaning of Fox News Dumping Sarah Palin

How the mighty have fallen.  Sarah Palin, that inscrutable media grifter from the tundra has just lost her gig with Fox News.  She will no doubt soon find herself in that place so dreaded by celebrities and fame mongers: the "where are they now?" file.

The simple explanation for Fox's parting of ways with Palin would be that she passed her expiration date in a political scene where trends and personalities come and go with the seasons.  That might be true, but I see a deeper game at play.  This is actually part of a larger change in strategy on the part of the establishment of the Republican party, for whom Fox News acts as a mouthpiece, agitator, and propaganda arm.

If you remember, back in 2009, the Republicans reacted to president Obama's election and relative popularity with a campaign of massive obstruction, resistance, and paranoia.  They filibustered at truly unprecedented levels, they began making idle and constant comparisons between the president's policies and Nazism, and they unleashed the dogs of political war in the form of the Tea Party church and king mob.  Fox News threw down the gauntlet by giving a big platform to Glenn Beck, a paranoid ranter with the affect of a cult leader who soon found many ready acolytes.  For the first time in decades, the Republican party establishment let their Bircher id run riot with apocalyptic fury.  The gambit worked in turning out the votes and shifting momentum back in 2010.

The raison d'etre of the party was apparent all along, and even stated publicly by the likes of Mitch McConnell: to make Barack Obama a one term president.  After failing miserably in this quest, despite favorable economic conditions for an opposition challenge, it seems the party of no is having to re-strategize.  They have decided to put off the debt ceiling battle, they have relented on Sandy funding, and they are making some baby steps towards moderate compromise.

This is where Palin comes in.  She is the avatar of the "turn out the base" strategy, and pretty well pioneered it in the 2008 election, when she "went rogue" and shot her mouth off about "real Americans" and took the low road in her attacks on Obama.  She quickly gained a following in the conservative ranks, who had found a representative for their resentments against Barack Obama, as well as a symbol of all they claimed to stand for.  The enthusiastic response she received from the party faithful on the campaign trail made the party big-wigs realize the potential of "take my country back" populism, and certainly helped pave the way for the party's co-option of Beck and the Tea Party.

The last election seems to have shown the limitations of that strategy.  Nowadays the party pushes forward the likes of Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz.  Much of this is to bolster facetious notions that the GOP is "young" and "diverse," but the new faces of the party are also more the old-school economic conservatives rather than the nationalistic rabble-rousers railing on behalf of "real America."  Republicans seem to think they can expand their appeal beyond older white people by dampening down the herrenvolk nationalism and playing up the Reaganite contempt for the downtrodden.  That, at the root, is why Sarah Palin is looking for a new gig.


Anonymous said...

W.H that was truly fantastic. My worry is that the contempt for the downtrodden tactic might actually work by itself. I work a warehouse part time to pay for school, and as a junior social scientist, I talk with and observe the behaviors and opinions of my coworkers carefully. What I have found is that they are almost all politically disengaged. The only time the seem to care is when the government seems to be doing something that directly effects them like gun control. When that happens they respond in a very confused and angry way.

Not only that but the general atmosphere, consciously cultivated from the management down, is "gain wealth forgetting all but self". No one is willing to help anyone else for any reason. It's a libertarian's paradise. As poor and abused as they are, almost all of them receive some type of government aid, they hate the government and hate the notion of contributing to anyone else's well being. They receive welfare, but don't want to pay taxes for other people to receive welfare too.

In a "devil take the hind most" society, where the poor and abused hate each other and prefer to think of themselves as the rich in the face of their own poverty, they will, and do, support those economic policies that attack them and the people like them.

Tim Lacy said...

Still, WHB, do you think that Fox would've dumped her if her ratings were high? They're a business too, so they would've downplayed her political self in favor of personality, thereby marginalizing her silly radical politics of aggrievement.

Yes, the Republicans are rebranding, and insofar as Fox News's political wing is lock-step with the party, then that rebranding would be causal. But Fox News keeps around a few token commentators, so why not keep Palin's viewers if she were actually drawing advertising dollars?

So I guess the question is Money or Power. You're taking Power on this one, for good reasons. But reason could also point one toward money. - TL

Debbie said...

Tim, I think you CAN have it both ways. It is very possible that Power recognizes the diminishing appeal of Palin to the right-of-middle audience, and it has bet on her becoming (or having already become) a low-yield commodity. Her stock value has been slipping for a while and there is no real likelihood that she'll ever be as marketable as she was in 2009.