Trump's losing war with Fox News
"The prospect of universal destruction may be exhilarating to some aesthetic souls, especially to those who do not intend to survive it," Hugh Trevor-Roper once wrote. "But those who must live on in the charred remainder of the world have less time for such purely spiritual experiences."
No disclaimer of the "barring some extraordinary circumstances" variety could possibly do justice to the futility of Donald Trump's chances of being re-elected president. This is not just because his campaign has not been able to provide evidence of determinative wrongdoing in any of the states in which it has failed lawsuits but because a majority of his supporters have accepted the testimony of their senses. This includes not only ordinary Republican voters, but politicians: senators such as Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham and Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio. Even in Trump's America, the dream is over.
This is why the president has turned his ire inward, at Republican officials, including minor state-level functionaries, who refuse to keep hope alive, and, more significantly, at Fox News, which he recently accused of having forgotten "the Golden Goose," which is apparently how the Emperor refers to himself these days. As far as I am aware, Trump is angry that the network was the first to call the crucial state of Arizona — correctly — for Joe Biden and the unwillingness of the news anchors (as opposed to the opinion personalities) to entertain the possibility of his victory. This is why he appears to have spent much of Thursday directing his followers to One America News Network and Newsmax, two right-wing upstart cable challengers to Fox.
Who will triumph in this contest of wills? Rupert Murdoch's cable news kingdom was powerful in the days when winning the war in Iraq was a moral imperative. My guess is that it will survive Trump's defeat much as it has all the other revolutions in conservative politics of the last two decades. (This is to say nothing of Murdoch's wider journalistic empire, which is used to hedging its bets in Britain, Australia, and the United States.)
As far as I can see, the most likely outcome in the weeks and months to come is that Fox allows Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and other uncritical supporters of the president to continue denying the result of the election while Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, Bill Hemmer, and other news-oriented personalities inhabit the reality-based community. Everyone calling for the network's pro-Trump contributors to jump ship are fooling themselves. One America does not have $25 million a year to pay Hannity, and Fox has nothing to lose by allowing him to spend the next half decade or so emulating his MSNBC counterparts by insisting that the most recent presidential election was illegitimate.
In the short term, I think it is possible that some Trump supporters will turn to Fox's competitors in the hope of finding their suspicions validated. But in six weeks, certainly in six months, it seems to me unlikely that millions of viewers who are accustomed to Fox's winning combination of right-wing bias and slick production values will adjust their viewing habits on a permanent basis. One America is the right-wing cable equivalent of Wayne's World. Like Newsmax, it is not the future of a post-Trump conservative movement but a relic of the Obama era, when conservative media was well-funded and expansive. Even if Trump were to sign an exclusive contract to host a program with either of these networks — which is unlikely: he will want to promote his $100 million memoir on 60 Minutes and spar with CNN personalities once again — it would not be enough to make a dent in Fox's share of the market. The limited evidence available suggests that gains made by Newsmax supplement rather than detract from Fox.
Whatever the consequences of Trump's presidency end up being, the destruction of Fox News is unlikely to be among them.