Marginalization, or how the Left got out-Foxed

Fox News has had a remarkable resurgence with Democrats. Two years after Bill Clinton tried to undermine Chris Wallace for having the temerity to ask tough questions in an interview, his wife appeared twice with Bill O’Reilly and Barack Obama met with Wallace himself on Fox. The Democratic embargo of the news network has apparently collapsed — and its architects among the netroots are livid, as Politico notes:

The nation’s top Democrats are suddenly rushing to appear on the Fox News Channel, which they once had shunned as enemy territory as the nemesis of liberal bloggers.

The detente with Fox has provoked a backlash from progressive bloggers, who contend the party’s leaders are turning their backs on the base — and lending credibility and legitimacy to the network liberals love to hate — in a quest for a few swing votes.

In a span of eight days, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY.) and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean are all taking their seats with the network that calls itself “fair and balanced” but is widely viewed as skewing conservative. …

Markos Moulitsas, founder of the leading liberal site Daily Kos, told Politico’s Michael Calderone: “Democrats are being idiotic by going on that network.” Ari Melber, the Net movement correspondent for The Nation, told Politico by phone that progressive activists and the Netroots are “not happy about it.”

This highlights why the Democrats have begun moving away from the netroots, at least for political advice. Fox News has the highest ratings of any cable news channel, while MS-NBC has the worst. Moulitsas wants his candidates to appear on MS-NBC and to boycott Fox. In which universe does this make any political sense at all? The entire notion of doing television appearances is to have the widest possible audience exposed to the campaign’s messaging, not to preach to the choir.

The netroots want their candidates to remain in their lockbox. Obama and Hillary have discovered, perhaps a bit late, how confining that box can be. This advice might have made sense for the primary season, although I think that’s at best arguable. In a general election, the candidates have to try to capture independents and centrists as well as the hard-Left loyalists, and that means going to where the voters are rather than expecting voters to seek out the candidates.

Netroots advocates want to “delegitimize” Fox News, but that’s a battle they lost years ago. Fox gets its legitimacy from its viewers, and it has more than CNN and far, far more than netroots favorite MS-NBC. Their boycott has done nothing to dent Fox’s lead. The appearance of Obama, Hillary, and now Howard Dean exposes the futility and silliness of their jeremiad against a network that airs more unabashedly progressive commentators than CNN.

The grown-ups have elections to win. They won’t do that by committing to exclusivity with Keith Olbermann, and if the netroots of the Left think otherwise, that shows how out of touch they really are.