In a really smart post, Ross Douthat considers whether conservatism benefits from Fox News. It seems clear to me (and Ross) that the rise of the FNC/Talk Radio machine has led to great political success in some respects for a rump right in dominating the discourse, but has led to concomitant and substantive shifts toward liberalism in actual policy. This is rather mischievously put here:
If you were feeling particularly unfair, you could probably make a chart linking Fox’s rising ratings to the renewed growth of government spending under Bush and Obama.
I don't think that's particularly unfair. Under Bush, the conservative media machine's partisan loyalty enabled the GOP to put domestic spending on steroids, launch two enormously expensive unending wars, drastically increase the power of the executive to trample on civil liberties, and added a huge unfunded entitlement, Medicare D. So while Fox was giddily celebrating power, conservatism was busy abandoning whatever policy principles it once had.
I also think the recession was far more brutal on the debt than it might have been because Bush et al had left the US no margin of error on deficits. They spent in the good times (like Blair and Brown in Britain) making the sudden downturn fiscally disastrous, and a stimulus more necessary and more damaging to the fiscal future. I have long believed that the knee jerk support for Bush from Fox, talk radio, National Review, the Weekly Standard, et al made government bigger, more wasteful, more utopian and less effective in the last decade. And that's why I can't quite take them seriously now that they are posing as small government absolutists as soon as a Democrat reaches the White House to clean up the mess.