As campaign season for the Democratic primaries next year gets underway, a clear divide between the crowded field of candidates has already been established. Weighing the decision whether to appear on Fox News to promote their arguments and policies has caused a split between the Democratic candidates running for 2020. Whilst the likes of Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg have welcomed the offer, they face judgement from their counterparts in Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.
Senator Warren, a member of the progressive wing looking to gain traction amongst left-leaning voters, labelled Fox News a “hate-for-profit racket”. Meanwhile, liberal Kamala Harris of California declined an invitation to attend a Fox News-hosted town hall meeting. Their reasonings are somewhat justified, particularly when Fox News have become notorious for their use of Trump sympathising rhetoric, mainly by echoing his racist and illiberal remarks. Fox has given platforms to many hard-line conservative shock jocks. Controversy ensued when one of their hosts, Tucker Carlson, made remarks outlining why he believed immigration to the U.S made the country “poorer, dirtier and more divided”. Furthermore, his colleague, Laura Ingraham, has infamously espoused low-blow political statements. She became widely lambasted by viewers and commentators when she mocked the survivor of a high school gun massacre. Both Carlson and Ingraham’s comments have resulted in advertisement and sponsorship boycotts from the Fox News network. For Democrats, hoping to encompass a diverse electorate in their manifestos, this news platform seems unfit to encourage an equal society.
It is certainly questionable, however, whether eliminating Fox News from the campaign trail entirely seems the right choice when trying to reach out to all voters. In 2018, Fox News was ranked the most-watched cable television network in the United States. A study by an American-based fact tank concluded that 60% of Fox News viewers identify as conservative. Although this is a large sum of people who are right-leaning, numerous independent-minded political aficionados consume Fox News coverage regularly too. To even expect to win next year’s 2020 general election opposing Trump, Democrats essentially have to extract voters from Trump’s base in middle America, as well as poach undecided voters from the fence. To be a serious contender for the race, candidates must look past Fox News’ amoral approach and speak to voters.
This is why Sanders, Klobuchar and Buttigieg have done so already. Sanders, vowing to be an influential voice for the working-class, attempted to appease this base when he fronted a Fox News town hall. When reflecting on 2016, Sanders won the primary against Hillary Clinton in states that were subsequently won over by Trump. Wisconsin, a battleground state regarded as one that helped propel Trump to the White House, voted for Sanders as their Democratic nominee with 56.59% of the vote. Similarly, Amy Klobuchar represents a flyover America constituency in Minnesota, so her efforts to placate Trump fans in the Midwest was noticed with her platform on Fox. The same notion can explain increasingly popular South Bend Mayor, Pete Buttigieg, and why he has followed their lead. “Mayor Pete”, the nickname he’s been given by his followers, leads a small city in a heavily conservative, Mike Pence-founding state of Indiana. If he has a slight chance of becoming the nominee, he knows engaging with the viewership of Fox News will help prop up his campaign.
To stand by your morals and succumb to the voices of your staunch supporters will do little to help a nominee win a healthy percentage of the vote in 2020. Democrats can not turn a blind eye to the popularity of Fox News, albeit however much they disagree. Voters who are weighing up their choices in 2020, or even current defenders of Trump, will look closer at candidates who are willing to talk directly to them from within their favourite cable network. It is too early to say how prominent Harris and Warren will be when the primary elections begin to take place, but their avoidance of a Trump apologising network just shows intransigence in the most divided times.
With politics being so polarizing and tribalism becoming so fractious, not acceding to a network that is giving you a chance to promote your cause is disheartening to voters already intensely frustrated with this climate.