Stolen elections - two can play this game
According to one poll, by March 2018 over 80% of democrats believed the 2016 election was decided with the help of Russian disinformation.
Over the weekend I read Dr. Robert P. Jones’ latest substack post “It’s the Culture Stupid.” As usual, I found his work interesting and well-thought out, despite some disagreements I might have with some details (my chief eyebrow raise was favorable press for James Carville and unfavorable words for Thomas Frank). All the same, it’s a great substack that I highly recommend.
What really caught my eye was at the end of his weekly recap, Jones included his appearance on Don Lemon’s CNN show to discuss the ongoing misinformation from right-wing media regarding last year’s presidential election. Staggeringly, 97% of OAN viewers believe the 2020 election results are false.
That…is not good.
But while Jones was telling Lemon about his research a curious thing happened.
At the 2:40 mark in this video, Robert P. Jones on Don Lemon, Lemon says the following.
This is very interesting everyone, pay attention. 82% of Republicans who watch Fox News believe the ‘big lie.’ Then there is - believe it or not - even further right wing outlets like OAN and Newsmax and for those, 97% of their viewers believe it…I mean…I just want you to look at some of the lies they are being fed on these networks. Lies.
CNN then proceeds to play clips showing the clear and ridiculous lies being fed to FOX and OAN viewers. They truly are some astonishing lies and would be hilarious if this was all a dream.
As I was sitting with Lemon’s reaction (more on that in a bit) I received an email from congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) in my junk folder. Apparently in some past life I have angered an unforgiving deity (if you’re out there I repent) and wound up on his email list. The fundraising pitch of the week read, in part:
I try not to spend too much time thinking about the crazy caucus in Congress. They make a lot of noise, cause a lot of media outrage, but don’t get anything done. All they want is attention.
But this not-so-subtle threat from Marjorie Taylor Greene – yes, of Jewish space laser infamy – caught my attention. Take a look:
Look, she continues to peddle Trump’s false statements on Russia and that country’s effort to elect him in 2016. Don’t forget, Trump’s own campaign manager was secretly meeting with Russian intelligence and giving them the campaign’s internal polling data — while Russian intelligence was running a social media campaign to elect him!
Now, is it a ludicrous parody of responsible governance that Marjorie Taylor Greene has any influence on public policy? Undoubtedly. And does Q’Anon, like the stolen 2020 election theories, present a threat to democracy? I suppose so.
But to say that Schiff’s email is dripping with irony might just the understatement of the past five years. Schiff, a war-mongering corporate democrat, who voted for Trump to have increased spying power on American civilians, as well as reliably voting for increased military budgets, is deeply concerned by conspiracy theories.
This same Schiff who pushed the ridiculous and discredited Steele dossier, orchestrated the 32 million dollar Muller probe that found out the exact opposite of his own narrative and continues to push discredited conspiracy theories regarding Russian government involvement with the 2016 election is deeply concerned by conspiracy theories.
At the risk of falling all the way down the rabbit hole of Schiff’s media-seeking, red-baiting, war-mongering record, it suffices to say there is perhaps nobody in democratic circles with less credibility to clutch their pearls as somebody ostensibly on the other side of the aisle does exactly the same thing.
Now back to Don Lemon. Among the pantheon of MSNBC and CNN anchors who would rather set the stage for a war with Russia abroad and Trump supporters domestically than deal with realities around policies that will affect their viewers in real life, Lemon may not be Zeus (looking at you Rachel Maddow) but he’s definitely one of the twelve.
In the days after the much-heralded dud that was the Muller report, Lemon mused with fellow Olympian Chris Cuomo and even checked his colleague’s little faith at the one minute mark.
Lemon - I think there are things in here - again, it doesn’t rise to the levels of criminality that it would with an average citizen
Cuomo - Muller said that.
Lemon - But it’s still very damning. And politically embarrassing for the president.
Cuomo - And shameful.
Lemon - And shameful.
The effect of the years-long (and apparently ongoing) chase for a criminal case against Trump for a non-existent Russian connection and the attendant counterfactual reports of his coziness towards the Kremlin was stark.
According to one poll, by March 2018 over 80% of democrats believed the 2016 election was decided with the help of Russian disinformation. Do these numbers - again based upon verifiablly false information - indicate a healthy democracy?
Perhaps politicians like Schiff and media companies like CNN are genuinely disturbed by the Greenes of the world. In their heart of hearts perhaps they hold a deep reverence for level-headed analysis that serve a functioning democracy. Or maybe the outrage comes as a result of seeing Republicans and their media executing the grift to levels they could only dream of achieving.
Either way what is clear for anyone looking is that “we the people” are the stooges once again. Whether its the 97% of OAN viewers (I honestly can’t get that number out of my head) who believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump or the 80% of Democrats in 2018 who believed Trump and Putin stole the election from them, none of this is for our benefit.
As Lemon himself pointed out early on in the Trump years,
But it is better for the news because the ratings will be better. There is so much controversy going on with it.
Of course he was right. CNN enjoyed their biggest year in 2017. Now that Biden takes center stage and more people care less about Trump, Fox has more viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined. If this sounds like Vegas odds then that’s about right, as far as I can see. Either way the house wins. And we lose.
Because what was true yesterday about the average American is true today. We’re just a year removed from near-historic unemployment numbers. Food banks are still overrun with struggling families. The opioid crisis marches on while rural Americans have to choose between working for Dollar General or WalMart at starvation wages. Our healthcare system is exposed during the ongoing COVID crisis. And our student loans repayments are set to become live again at the start of the year.
Meanwhile the rich get richer. The Schiffs, the Greenes, the Lemons and Maddows of the world retain their positions and, somehow, their credibility. At least within their own echo chambers.
So Dr. Jones is absolutely correct. It is the culture that is the problem. It’s the culture with right-wing racism and it’s the culture with war-mongering liberals. And, as much as I hate to say it, Carville, the human broken watch, is correct once again.
It is the economy. And maybe all of us are stupid. That seems to be the working theory anyway.