Will a new left-wing TV network rescue the despondent Dems?

By Michael Medved

Desperate Democrats have now come up with a magical solution to all their problems: suggesting the launch of an ambitious new television network to assure proper exposure for the liberal point of view.

One week after GOP victories in the midterm elections, the inside-the-Beltway journal The Hill reported that Democratic leaders believe that they need to find a “counterweight to what they call the vast and well-funded infrastructure of conservative ideology” – in other words, that hoary, horrid bugbear of a vast right-wing conspiracy that’s haunted liberal nightmares since Hillary evoked its fearsome power during the impeachment crisis. In order to balance such ferocious forces of reaction, the despondent Dems now “are calling for stronger liberal think tanks” and “even entertained the possibility of a liberal television network to offset Fox News.”

The best way to come to terms with the insanity behind this suggestion is to try to imagine what this bold new venture might look like.

How might you program the liberal network to ensure its earnest ideological appeal? Perhaps you’d consider talk shows hosted by Phil Donahue, Larry King, George Stephanopolous, Bryant Gumbel, Katie Couric, Sam Donaldson, Geraldo Rivera, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Moyers or Barbara Walters and the other women of “The View.”

Or maybe you’d recruit Dan Rather (or Jennings, or Brokaw) as your news anchor. For entertainment, you might consider a prime-time drama like “The West Wing,” or a light-hearted (but tolerance-teaching) comedy like “Will & Grace.” Barbra Streisand could provide musical specials (oozing leftie nostalgia, of course) for the holiday season – and for Election Day.

The network also might broadcast enlightened liberal movies by filmmaking titans like Oliver Stone, Michael Moore, Robert Altman, Stephen Spielberg or Spike Lee. If future programmers for DEM-TV truly wish to let their imaginations soar, they might even fantasize about luring such luminaries as Rosie O’Donnell and Bill Maher out of their temporary retirements.

In other words, you could fill up the entire schedule of the new network with precisely the same sort of show that is already readily available, around the clock and across the dial. Only the looniest leftist could nourish the notion that today’s broadcast or cable-TV networks shortchange or suppress liberal views.

Fox News triumphed precisely because it provided a forum for opinions seldom aired on the established channels, allowing the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Brit Hume to connect with an eager audience. The undeniable rightward tilt of Fox may undermine its claims of “fair and balanced” reporting, but the network does preserve the lively liberal perspective of personalities like Geraldo and Greta van Sustern.

By contrast, its “mainstream” competitors present self-consciously right-wing viewpoints only within the context of their dueling wonk shows (Crossfire, Buchanan and Press), and never as part of their entertainment line-ups. When in its history did television ever offer a show as unabashedly conservative as “The West Wing” is unabashedly liberal?

The day after the election, in fact, I wrote a commentary for USA TODAY suggesting that the precipitous ratings decline for “The West Wing” may have stemmed in part from its shrill, tiresome and predictable partisanship. In response to this observation, Michael Brecklin of Peoria wrote a letter to the editor declaring: “Pop-culture pundit Michael Meved is a hoot … One wonders what sociopolitical conclusions Medved draws from the ratings free fall of shows starring Drew Carey and Kelsey Grammer, two staunch Republicans …”

In answer to that question, I’d suggest that Carey and Grammer draw far less attention to their GOP affiliation than Martin Sheen attracts for his tireless left-wing activism. Moreover, if “Frasier” and “Drew Carey” contain regular Republican messages, those signals remain so stubbornly subtle as to count as invisible.

The talk of new networks and “stronger liberal think tanks” (as if Yale, Harvard, Stanford and other elite schools don’t provide enough of an incubator for left-wing ideas) serves as an excuse for Democrats to avoid serious self-examination. Lamenting libs fret over the mechanics of communicating their message, rather than considering the shortcomings of the message itself.

Rather than suggesting that they could turn their political fortunes around with a few more big media stars who share their point of view, they might recall the eternally trenchant analysis of Cassius:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves …”