If Nixon was the architect of the Southern Strategy, Roger Ailes was -according to GOP strategist Ed Rollins- its Michelangelo.
What that means is that he elevated the idea of using white resentment to divide and polarize a society into an art form.
He was already the "go to guy" as a political consultant but he got bored with retail polarization and wanted to move up to wholesale. In 1996, he convinced his buddy Rupert Murdoch to get him a shiny new toy, the Fox News.
The network, at its core, is a giant soundstage created to mimic the look and feel of a news operation, cleverly camouflaging political propaganda as independent journalism.He applied the tried and true GOP formula to make it into a very effective and profitable tool. And he used himself as the mold.
To watch even a day of Fox News – the anger, the bombast, the virulent paranoid streak, the unending appeals to white resentment, the reporting that’s held to the same standard of evidence as a late-October attack ad – is to see a refraction of its founder, one of the most skilled and fearsome operatives in the history of the Republican Party.It was thanks to him that Koch brothers pet project called Freedom Works was transformed into the Tea Party as we know and love today.
He not only made conservative politics acceptable (even though it kept moving to the right and had no anchor) he also became the referee who decided what conservative was to become the darling of the right.
Until the Donald.
From the get-go Trump adopted an adversarial position vis-a-vis Fox News. It was a typical alpha male posturing. He famously attacked Megyn Kelly in sexist and disparaging terms. He demanded money to appear on Fox News, as he claimed his presence amounted to a rating bonanza. He even boycotted a Fox News debate.
The Chairman responded with virulent coverage of Trump's campaign. He enlisted all the big stars in the GOP firmament to speak out against Trump. They relentlessly accused him of everything under the sun. The same echo-chamber that so successfully destroyed many Democratic candidates like John Kerry or managed to get the House and the Senate back to GOP in 2012, turned against Trump.
And, surprise, surprise, nothing happened.
Trump continued to climb in the polls, won most of the significant primaries and eventually became the presumptive nominee.
In the cynical conservative world, this was a major catastrophe. The invincible Chairman was shown to be vulnerable. This is a man who convinced millions that one of the most conservative Democratic Presidents of all time was in fact a Kenyan Marxist out to destroy America with his extremism. This is a man who could sell any statement or any position no matter how outrageous that is.
The Donald showed that it was no more. If he couldn't destroy a man who says the first thing that comes to his mind only to reverse himself two days later why should anyone fear him.
The magic spell was broken.
Since then you see a huge effort to mend their relationship. As Trump knew he couldn't finance his own campaign (news flash, despite his bombast, he is not that rich), he decided to go to the GOP establishment to ask for their help to raise money.
And they said, sure, but you first go and make it nice with the Chairman.
And they told the Chairman, no more attacking the Donald.
That is why, the other night, Trump was explaining his bimbo tweets to the target of those tweets.
And that is why Kelly, who accused him of sexism in the past, was telling him "you're so powerful" against a backdrop of Central Park.
These are the folks who will block Merrick Garland's nomination claiming the new President should be the one to choose and will vote him in during the lame duck session, if Hilary Clinton wins in November.
The word cynical doesn't even begin to cover them.
But that is why the Chairman is so important. He can make such contradictions disappear and turn cynicism into a moral virtue.
That is why he is the Chairman.