It's important to remember that as much progress as we seem to make, the long-term struggle is by no means over nor even close to being finished.
We have worked hard to build a movement to do battle against the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. That machine has chewed up and spit out countless Democrats, rendering them a hollow shell of what they used to be. For decades, it was easier for a Democrat to go along with the right-wing agenda than to face the wrath of the combined might of the right-wing Mighty Wurlitzer.
Then we bloggers came along, and Air America, and ... well, that's it. We're laughably small compared to what the Right can throw at our side. But we're growing and have shown Democrats that there's reward for standing for strong progressive principles. We have shown that we can also deliver some measure of pain to the other side. We've shown that the political and media landscapes are changing, and that we no longer have to pretend that Fox News is a serious news operation.
The best thing Barack Obama may have done this young primary season was to freeze out Fox News after their "Madrassas" smear of him. I don't know if he's still cutting them off, but fact is, he sent an unmistakable message -- he'll only deal with legitimate news operations, and Fox News ain't one of them.
This was a huge step forward. Fox News is unabashedly movement oriented -- focused on promoting Republicans at the expense of Democrats. Every decision they make, from top to bottom, is predicated on that very simply mission.
But they cannot exert serious pressure on media narratives unless it creates some semblance of respectability. Its so-called "fair and balanced" nonsense. It's much easier to ignore Newsmax as partisan dribble. But when reporting news, any "serious" news operation gets deference by its peers. And Fox News has taken advantage of that deference to promote some of the worst smears against Democrats. Yet for years, Democrats have helped fuel this right-wing propaganda arm by appearing on their various programs, lending it an air of legitimacy.
But I suppose politics is about measuring baby steps. And the Nevada Democratic Party's decision to give Fox News rights to one of our field's debates sets back much of our hard work.
Would Republicans hold a debate on Air America? Would they live blog on Daily Kos? Only if they were idiots. But apparently, that very simple notion eludes our top Democrats.
And not just in Nevada. Howard Dean has endorsed the effort as a way to, um, let Fox News talking heads make fun of Democrats to a large audience:
But the Nevada party organizers -- and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean -- said Thursday that while they may not think much of Fox's reporting, they want to reach out to viewers of the largest cable news network, one with double the number of prime-time viewers of CNN. And one whose believability is much higher with Republicans than Democrats, according to a 2005 study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
First of all, the number of people who watch cable news is tiny. O'Reilly's show draws just a bit over 2 million people. Not exactly the masses. Cable news is literally just a couple of notches above the blogosphere in terms of overall audience. And I don't say that to puff up the blogosphere, but to deflate cable news.
But more importantly, why do you think conservatives watch Fox News? Because they worship at the altar of their pundit heroes -- Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Brit Hume, John Gibson, and their special little friends like Bill Bennett, Ann Coulter and the like.
That's who the viewers tune in to hear. That's who they trust.
So logic would dictate an easy answer to this question --
Who will those conservative Fox News viewers trust -- the Democrats at the debate, or their hero pundits who will spend the next hour (and days) afterward trashing those Democrats?
It's not a trick question.
So where does that leave us? The genius at the Nevada Democratic Party who negotiated the agreement with Fox is stepping down, so he doesn't give a shit what people think. It's no longer his problem.
Harry Reid is playing stupid and passing the buck, wondering why anyone would think that he, the highest-ranking Democrat in the land, might have any influence in his own state of Nevada. Don't look to him for leadership on this. He's apparently perfectly happy helping legitimize Fox News. Apparently, he has no problems with them trashing him like this, this, this, this, this, this, and this.
Howard Dean has forgotten his own battles with Fox, and is now eagerly helping legitimize the right-wing's smear machine. Perhaps there's a limit to how long one spends in DC before they lose common sense.
So it comes down to the candidates.
The second- and third-tier candidates are desperate for any exposure, and won't turn down the debate. But a couple of the top-tier candidates have complained about the heavy debate schedule. So once again, here's a chance to clear up some of that calendar for more productive endeavors.
Skipping this debate will have a second positive effect -- gratitude from lots like me who don't appreciate Democrats bolstering the enemy's smear propaganda machine.
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