It's great that The Daily Show is around to heap some scorn on these blowhards, but it won't really do them much harm. One thing they understand very well at Fox, and in the conservative movement more generally, is the political value of shamelessness. As long as you say what you're saying with conviction, it doesn't matter how absurd or hypocritical it is. You may not get the majority of the public to agree with you, but you can get a good number. And among the functions Fox serves for the right (along with conservative talk radio) is the rapid dissemination of arguments and a model of argumentation. They tell conservatives not just what they should say, but how they should say it.I think that's just about right. However, I can't agree with Waldman's conclusion:
As a result, conservatives may not win every argument, but they almost never get routed completely.Really? Think about sexual orientation for a minute. To be sure, conservatives have won some battles, but the writing is on the wall: what's not a complete route yet is coming soon (granted, marriage in Alabama may still take a while, still). It's turned out that the power of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, and -- far more impressively -- decades of belief was no match for political power of individual gays and lesbians coming out, one by one.
Of course, most issue areas do not wind up with complete routes, but that's true for both sides. It's true, as Waldman says, that the current budget plans considered by Congress and the president don't sort well with polling that shows tax increases on the rich and cuts in military spending are popular. But, first of all, tax increases on the rich were on the agenda just a few months ago and will be again next year; and, second of all, this is clearly one instance in which election results are trumping public opinion polls as cues to lawmakers. That's not a Fox News effect; it's exactly how one would expect the political system to react to a landslide election, for better or worse. But liberals aren't completely routed on taxes or spending. It's just (for better or worse) a tactical retreat.
My guess would be that as an overall effect the FNC/shameless strategy is a net minus. When pundits can pick up and drop arguments at the drop of the hat without worrying about long-term consistency, it may make it easier to appear to be winning at any moment, but at the cost of actually fighting for policies they believe in. I don't know; perhaps most of this stuff is only surface-deep and doesn't really have any effect beyond really efficiently conveying to people disposed to agree with conservatives what it is that they're suppose to agree with right now. But the idea that it's a major net plus for conservatives, I think, is unproven and highly unlikely.