By my read, Wolff is not so much arguing that viewers are voting against MSNBC in a political sense as saying that, with the Obama administration six years old, under attack and in its lame duck phase, there’s no excitement anymore in the Obamaism of Rachel Maddow and company. And with the thrill, the energy, the sense of forward momentum, goes the desire to watch. Its progressive audience may not be changing their views, but some are demonstrably changing the channel.
I don’t find much to disagree with in Wolff’s analysis so far as it goes. But I am surprised that Wolff, a scholar of all things Fox and Murdoch, doesn’t point out the analog to MSNBC’s slump: Fox News, at pretty much exactly the same point in the George W. Bush presidency.
Around this time in 2006, Fox’s ratings were down, while CNN and MSNBC’s were rising. And there were plenty of analyses–I wrote some of them–that in part, this may have been because the Fox lineup, ascendent on the early post-9/11 era, was feeling tired and malaised. It couldn’t have been that much fun for conservative hosts to defend Bush after Katrina and around the punishing midterms. Nor, it seemed, was it as much fun for the conservative fanbase to watch. As I wrote in early 2008: