Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fox News: Always Classy and Apparently Scared

I'll confess that after the initial excitement of Obama's announcement of his support for gay marriage, one of my first thoughts was 'how is Fox News going to spin this' (to be fair, if I didn't think that way, this blog probably wouldn't exist).  And I've got to say, it wasn't what I was expecting:

It's not just that headline either, I watched about half of Hannity, before the urge to bash my skull against the wall to make it stop began to get overwhelming, and it was the same mantra there.  And I won't lie, it makes a certain kind of twisted sense.  Mitt Romney's biggest weakness as a candidate (well, besides being Mitt Romney) is that he's a flip flopper/etch-a-sketch/say anything to win kind of guy.  And beyond the fact that it appears that's a completely accurate perception, at this point it's so deeply engrained in the American psyche that it's not changing.  Which means the only real option is to try to paint Obama as also being a flip flopper in the hopes that voters will just throw up there hands, say 'I guess they're both flip floppers', and ignore the issue.

Now the problem they're going to run into with this strategy is that gay marriage is one of the few issues where the country has actually 'flip flopped' their position over the last decade.  While voters expect consistency on tax cuts, social security, and abortion policy, they or someone they've known has changed their position on this issue.  Over the last 10 years public opinion on the issue has gone from 62% opposed to 50% in favor of gay marriage, and that big a swing is not explained solely by older voters dying out and being replaced by younger ones.  It's been driven by the exact reasons Obama cited as changing his opinion: friends and coworkers coming out, our children (or their friends), and a growing recognition in the culture that gay people are just like us.  And so, try as Fox might to spin this as a flip flop, but most Americans are going to hear the President's words and say "ya, that's why I changed my mind too."

There's another element of Fox News spin that needs to be addressed as well.  8 years ago, probably even 4, Fox wouldn't bother with painting a Democrat as a flip flopper for coming out in favor of gay marriage.  They would simply repeat over and over again that they were trying to destroy traditional marriage, destroy the family, destroy America, and were hopelessly outside the mainstream.  Now to be sure, that will be part of Fox's message going forward.  But the fact that they didn't lead with that, that it wasn't the core and entirety of their message says something.  It says that they don't think they can win simply by reminding voters that Obama is in favor of gay marriage.  It says that Fox isn't sure that pure bigotry is a winning issue for them any more.  It says in fact that they're scared this might be a winning issue for the President and therefore his position needs to be discredited instead of attacked.

And that sounds pretty good to me.

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