As Matthew Sheffield laid out brilliantly in a piece earlier this month, at any given moment Fox may have the biggest audience in cable news, but its overall cultural and political influence pales in comparison with that of its leading network and Internet competitors. Fox has constructed a big, beautiful, and lucrative gated community — a comfortable conservative cocoon.
The result is clear: Conservatives gain fame, power, and influence mainly by talking to each other. They persuade each other of the rightness of their ideas and write Fox-fueled best-selling books making arguments that Fox viewers love. The sheer size of the audience lulls minor political celebrities into believing that they’re making a cultural and political difference. But they never get a chance to preach to the unconverted.
...Michael Gerson adds:
The result is a world in which many individual conservatives just keep failing up. Fox is the place where you can nurse grievances over failed arguments. It’s the place where you can make money after failed campaigns. Do you wonder why the GOP had 17 presidential primary candidates? In part because there were actually two primary contests — the race for the nomination and the auditions for Fox.
Much (not all, but much) of the new conservative establishment feeds outrage as its source of revenue and relevance. It is a model that has been good for Limbaugh and Fox News but bad for the GOP. Republicans are now caught in a complicated electoral dynamic. What their base, incited by conservative media, is demanding, the country is rejecting. A choice and a conflict are becoming unavoidable. Trump’s angry nativism — newly restated in Arizona with a few twists — is a talk-radio shtick, correctly viewed by most of the electorate as impractical and cruel. It is less a proposal than an offensive, unhealthy form of ideological entertainment. And this show needs to close.