When we look back on the Trump administration—and if the Kennedy administration was Camelot, what we’re suffering under now is most definitely Scamalot—we’ll give a round of applause to those journalists and media figures who disputed the disinformation and challenged the covfefe. However, some of these Fourth Estate figures deserve their props now—especially when they’ve hit a milestone.
On April 1, 2013, MSNBC launched All In with Chris Hayes, immediately raising the overall IQ of weeknight cable television. The Nation editor-at-large had already excelled at MSNBC during his 2011-2013 run on the weekend program Up, establishing a legacy of intellectual depth and skill that current weekend host Joy Reid is more than capably upholding. Five years ago, there were fears that Hayes would be constrained by the nightly format, that he would struggle to fit his talent into this newer, riskier platform. Those fears were unfounded; Hayes is arguably even better now than he was on Up.
Hayes’s program was of paramount importance during President Obama’s second term, as he chronicled the administration’s struggles against Republican recklessness, and Obama’s efforts to secure a legacy of lasting change. All In is just as important today, if not more so; Hayes is masterful at making sense of the senselessness that is the Trump regime.
Hayes’s coverage of Russia’s manipulation of our political system will be watched by future generations attempting to understand this most unsettling era in national and international politics. His interviews with Trump allies Carter Page and Felix Sater were among the most compelling broadcasts ever aired on cable television. Other than his MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow, how many cable-news figures have achieved this level of consistent excellence?
I remember when Up launched seven years ago, and the conventional wisdom that Hayes would be “too wonky” to be successful on cable television, conventional wisdom that was rehashed when All In began. Remember when then-New York Times writer Brian Stelter seemed to suggest that Hayes wouldn’t make it when he observed:
Mr. Hayes, 34, will be the youngest host of a prime-time show on any of the country’s major cable news channels, all of which seek out youthful viewers but tend to have middle-aged hosts and a core audience made up of senior citizens.
As though senior citizens don’t want to be intellectually stimulated.
Back then, Stelter also proclaimed that “taking over that hour [8:00pm Eastern] is a difficult assignment for Mr. Hayes, given Bill O’Reilly’s commanding grip on the time slot.” Even then, some of us knew that O’Reilly wouldn’t be the ratings king forever, that at some point the people would get tired of his act. (Granted, no one could have predicted that Fox News would get tired of O’Reilly’s act.) Five years after Stelter’s subtle skepticism, it’s clear that Hayes has succeeded by surviving; MSNBC executives, who lost faith in so many other hosts, never had cause to lose faith in him.
Hayes has distinguished himself over the years with his recognition of the existential threat of climate change. Hayes has himself changed the climate of political discourse in this country—and for the better. Hayes made wisdom cool in this country. He demonstrated that one could be successful on cable television by not appealing to the lowest common denominator. He proved that the weapon of right-wing disinformation—a true weapon of mass political destruction—can be deactivated by maintaining a fidelity to facts.
Here’s to five more years of Chris Hayes on MSNBC. Cable news has long been dominated by right-wing ugliness. With his hard work and intellect, Hayes is doing all he can to keep America beautiful.