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Donald Trump — Conservative Radio's Fairness Doctrine
We all remember how big of a topic the Fairness Doctrine was with conservatives, back in the Bush era. As you'll recall, some in the Democratic party were hoping to reinstate the long-dead FCC policy out of an expressed need to restore political balance to the public airwaves. The regulation, which originally required broadcasters to air opposing points of view on controversial issues, was seen by some on the Left as a way of leveling the playing field against the runaway success and heavy political influence of conservative radio.
Of course, the field wasn't the problem. The progressive Air America radio network had the same opportunities to succeed as the conservative-media giants, but it simply couldn't find an audience. It was an abysmal failure, and shut down after six years.
Where free-market attempts to diminish influential conservative voices (and promote liberal ideology) had failed, some liberals felt that they could do it through government regulation. Fortunately, their efforts didn't get very far in Washington, and there hasn't been any meaningful revisit of the Fairness Doctrine for about ten years.
Thus, Talk Radio has remained the one information medium in this country where conservative thought has a competitive edge. And it's a dominant edge — an arena where progressives can barely manage a foothold.
At least that used to be the case.
Things changed in the summer of 2015. That's when some of the biggest names in conservative radio decided to do the Left a major favor by handing it a gift far more valuable than anything liberals could have gotten out of the Fairness Doctrine.
That gift was The Donald Trump Show.
If you would have told me 18 months ago that some of conservative radio's top dogs (like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham) would one day show up to work, and start doing everything they could to get Hillary Clinton into the White House, I would have said you were crazy. If you would have told me that they would abruptly suspend their long-preached principles (defending the Constitution, preserving personal liberty, and embracing small-government fundamentals), I'd have laughed you out of the room.
After all, these people were so committed to conservative purity within the Republican party that they had been pressuring political leaders to shut down the government in order to rein in federal spending. They had branded GOP moderates (and not-so-moderates) as "RINOs" and "squishies." Some had even joined primary campaigns to remove sitting Republicans in congress who they decided were insufficiently conservative.
Yet, when Donald Trump (a personal friend to some of them, and an identified ratings-magnet to others) entered the presidential race, the ideological sanctimony essentially dropped by the wayside.
These people began elevating and normalizing a big-government autocrat, who knew virtually nothing about conservatism (or even relevant policy). They even diminished his genuinely conservative primary opponents. And when the polls and Trump's hopelessly undisciplined, adolescent behavior made it painfully apparent that Trump couldn't beat Hillary in the general election, they pushed him even harder.
They lent conservative credentials to a fan of single-payer healthcare and eminent domain, who vowed not to reform our nation's entitlement programs. They excused his opposition to free trade and freedom of the press. They glossed over his moral and ethical shortcomings, and his advancement of reckless conspiracy theories. The rationalized even his most ridiculous rhetoric, and they forgave him for his political past — a luxury they granted to no other presidential candidate.
Above all, these people knew that Trump wasn't going to be the next president. They knew his nomination would lead to another decisively liberal U.S. president. Yet they refused to use their conservative clout to keep that from happening.
Rather than practicing what they'd been preaching for years (in some cases, decades), they turned into some of Trump's most valuable surrogates. The Donald Trump Show (which extended to the blogosphere and cable news) was just too big to fail, or perhaps too big to pass up from a monetary standpoint. Trump's brand became more important than the conservative cause, and certainly more important than taking back the White House.
Amusingly, now that pretty much everyone is seeing the writing on the wall for November 8, these same media-conservatives are trying very hard to pin the blame for their guy's approaching loss on those of us who opposed the Republican party's forfeiting of this election from the beginning.
Talk about pathetic. I would hope that their listeners would eventually come to realize who it was that really betrayed them. I think many already have.
The Democratic party and the progressive movement couldn't have asked for better allies than those in the conservative media who've been carrying Trump's water for almost a year and a half. The Left knows they have their own terribly flawed candidate in Hillary Clinton, and that she would have been easy pickings for any remotely capable GOP nominee.
But that didn't happen, in significant part, because the Democrats finally got their Fairness Doctrine. And it has gone a long way toward advancing the liberal agenda.