For a long time the conservatives convinced us that we were, largely, in our souls and pocketbooks, conservative (even though the Republicans have, in recent memory, not gotten more than 50% of the national vote). But then we elected a young black president and it seemed that somehow we’d been transformed into liberals.
When Wall Street collapsed, we became, suddenly, populists with dual right-wing/left-wing zeal and a rising conservative heartland backlash against statist control. Then there was the long health care summer with an inexplicable but seemingly growing revulsion to a national health care system.
And then there’s Fox. For more than 10 years, Fox News, with its dedicated right-wing views, has been the only real success in television news. Partly because of our odd relationship to success (if you make money, you’re mainstream), and partly because Fox was so mesmerizing, so attention-seeking and attention-getting, we came to believe—still believe—Americans are a pretty grotty right-wing bunch. As it happens, the Fox audience is, tops, only 2 million people, and yet, because of its flamboyance and success, it manages to convince the rest of the media that conservatism is the national mood.
And yet, yesterday, the Washington Post
reported in a new poll that, actually, not only do a significant majority of Americans favor health care reform, but 57% want the public option
—that most heated symbol of statism.
So I am revising my theory
of what the Obama administration is doing in its frontal assault on Fox: I think they want us to take sides. Are you a Fox person or not a Fox person? And I think they want to identify Fox as the standard bearer of American conservatism. If you’re a conservative, you’re for Fox (ie, is that
who you want to be?).
They are going to combine this triangulation with their passing of a health care bill. I think they believe that, once this has been passed, to have opposed it will be like opposing Social Security.
Hence, Republicanism = conservatism = Fox = rabid opposition to an incredibly popular piece of legislation = hopeless marginalization = new liberal consensus.
I think they’re really going for it and that we may all turn out to be liberals.
More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NewserColumns.
Here’s what nobody seems to know: whether we’re a liberal nation or a conservative one.