The rise and rise of the anti-Fox – how Rachel Maddow rattles the right

Rachel Maddow – the first openly gay host of an American prime time TV current affairs show – is for mine the thinking-man’s liberal crumpet of our time.

Maddow is on a roll right now. Since her eponymous show opened on the MSNBC cable network in August 2008 she has led the charge – along with Keith Olbermann, Al Sharpton and most recently Lawrence O’Donnell – that has seen MSNBC transformed from, as the New York Times recently characterised it, a “CNN also-ran to the anti-Fox.”

MSNBC is a long way from toppling Fox in terms of absolute numbers – on most daily tallies this year Fox drew more than two million audience members than MSNBC. But drilling down into those numbers reveals MSNBC’s success in the key 25- to 54-year-old age group.

Maddow must be doing something very right because her numbers in this key demographic have been climbing steadily, particularly following President Obama’s re-election in early November. This should be no surprise, because, as PoliticsUSA noted in late November:

It isn’t a coincidence that as MSNBC’s ratings have increased in direct relationship to their positive coverage of Obama … The ageing of the population will continue to benefit Fox News in the short term, but the demographic shift that tilted the 2012 election to the Democrats is also impacting cable news.

Maddow goes head-to-head most nights against Sean Hannity (whose loose relationship to facts and truth I looked at in my previous post) and in the weeks before Christmas Maddow and O’Donnell’s The Last Word consistently won their timeslots.

Maddow is tough, smart-as-a-whip (she is a Rhodes scholar and has a PhD from Oxford University) and is no milquetoast liberal lightweight. And she can be very funny. Her presentations are dense, complex and – perhaps this is hardest of all in political commentary – often hilarious.

Maddow will slip a laugh-out-loud comment in the middle of a long exposition during which she barely pauses for breath. Her pitches are littered with charts, statistics, policy analyses and follow-me-I-know-where-I’m-going trawls through complex sets of facts and reasoning and yet she still manages to leave you smiling at the tag line. She turns political analysis into standup with style and sass.

Maddow characterises herself as a “national security liberal” and once said that “I have never and still don’t think of myself as an Obama supporter, either professionally or actually.”

She is widely considered as a defence policy wonk and earlier this year published her first book “Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power” (2012, Crown Publishers). More than a few – on both the right and left – were surprised to see Roger Ailes – Chairman, CEO and creator of the Fox Network – provide this blurb to Maddow’s book:

Rachel Maddow makes valid arguments that our country has been drifting towards questionable wars, draining our resources, without sufficient input and time. People who like Rachel will love the book. People who don’t will get angry, but aggressive debate is good for America. Drift is a book worth reading.”

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Categories: Fun stuff, Some places I've been, Stupidity, The Law

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6 Responses

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  1. Glad to read that Maddow is doing so well but I would point out that being a Rhodes Scholar and going to Oxford is no guarantee of intelligence.

    I mean Tony Abbott was one too. He reads 50 Shades rather than BHP reports or Judgements about the Speaker. Then again he can’t understand power bills so maybe he just has to confine himself to his level of comprehension

    Unless the selection process in the states is more rigorous than in NSW

    by The Pav on Dec 28, 2012 at 11:58 am

  2. The Pav – on Rachel Maddow being a Rhodes scholar – I wouldn’t devalue the brand because of an obvious outlier like Abbott. And no small beer having a PhD from Oxford – her dissertation was entitled Her doctoral thesis is titled “HIV/AIDS and Health Care Reform in British and American Prisons.”

    by Bob Gosford on Dec 28, 2012 at 1:31 pm

  3. And Rachael is way younger than Rupert and Roger. So her reign is just beginning. My goodness I hope she and Lawrence O’Donnell, and Cenk Uyger, another outstanding Progressive commentator on Al Gore’s Current TV, all have the wherewithall to turn the US Titanic around and away from the Christian crazies that have the power in their hands now. Before they go off the full-tilt national psychosis cliff.

    by C@tmomma on Dec 29, 2012 at 9:45 am

  4. Go Rachel Maddow! Steer America away from guns, religion and the tax cut cliff.

    by Karen on Dec 30, 2012 at 10:24 am

  5. The piece de resistance was her post election commentary on the right-wing loony fringe’s ability to transmit nonsense and be seen as ‘mainstream’ during the campaign with the help of a compliant media.

    I hope someone copies here when the policy free debacle that is the Coalition goes down next year.

    by jenauthor on Dec 30, 2012 at 3:26 pm

  6. If the right is scared of Rachel, they must be absolutely terrified of Jon Stewart and Colbert. Every night the youth of America see their credibility ripped to shreds!

    by Carbon Footprint on Dec 30, 2012 at 6:20 pm

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