Conservative media outlets in the US are almost entirely concerned with electoral politics. While there are occasionally seasonal detours onto bureaucratic issues (like local bans on nativity displays — a point of conflict going back centuries in Anglo-American societies) and local crime stories, most of the air time on shows like Rush Limbaugh’s or channels like Fox News concern what elected officials are doing, and how campaigns are shaping up.
This makes the viewers obsess over what politicians are and aren’t doing, while keeping the focus current. News is supposed to be new, so when people spend their lives accumulating a stack of knowledge which is recent and shallow, divorced from the relevant context. The democratic mind winds up orbiting around ‘issues’ which are often the consequences of decisions made in previous decades or centuries.
For example, a pundit will talk about the ‘immigration debate,’ but will not usually bring up the directly relevant context of the predictions made by the Johnson administration at the time of the end of most of the immigration quotas, and comparing those predictions to the results of the policies of his administration.
Media channels create fictional — under the ‘reality TV model’ — narratives about politicians which tend to focus on their personalities, along with their stands on arbitrarily chosen ‘issues.’ These issues must be framed in a way that can be comprehended by the median voter while still exciting the party faithful.
In modern states, elected politicians tend to have rather limited influence. It’s not so much that there’s no difference between the political parties, it’s more that the politicians once elected have little influence over what bills get passed, what’s written into bills, and how the existing beureacracies are administered.
In effect, these political news channels act as cover and public relations for the real work of government, to create a greater sense of popular legitimacy. The hack around some of the crises of democracy has been to make it so that the people are only extensively polled and consulted on the selection of actors in the television show that purports to be about the American government.
Polling for the actual work of the state tends to be done to measure the effectiveness of what intellectuals and administrators already wanted to do. Even if public support for a proposal is low to start with, that’s just the baseline of opinion that administrators have to work with before they mount their effort to change society. Only rarely does widespread opposition to a proposal stop such an effort in its tracks — if it’s a high enough priority, popular consent can be engineered through the use of propaganda.