November 10, 2012
So! That election. Funny how it wasn’t even close. And please don’t start yammering at me about the popular vote, because if we decided elections that way both sides would have run totally different campaigns (e.g., no one would have gone to Ohio, ever), and there are compelling reasons to think that Obama’s team would have been just as effective under those circumstances, and that Mitt Romney would still have been Mitt Romney, which carries its own consequences. This week, in the lugubrious post-mortem of their ass-kicking, the GOP has variously blamed: media bias; single ladies; Latinos (¿Por qué no nos quieren, amigos?!?) and Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy, but they have strenuously ignored the piece of the puzzle that I find most interesting, which is that they failed to run an effective campaign in large part because they started to believe their own propaganda. They drank the toxic Kool-Aid they were supposed to serve the rest of us, and it did them in.
The Republican partisan press apparatus is a wonder to behold, and endlessly frustrating to liberals. Why does anyone believe them when all they do is lie? How do they manage to keep their base so engaged? How do they get them to vote in such lockstep, regardless of issues or circumstances? The beating heart of the beast is of course Fox News, but the specious talking points and shameless spin recited by its anchors are verified—if you can call something that has nothing to do with reality “verification”—by pundits and bloggers and so-called reporters from Limbaugh to Carlson. And the effect of having so many information sources speaking in exactly the same language, about exactly the same ginned-up issues (Black Panthers! Voter fraud!), on exactly the same day, sometimes down to the hour, is the creation of a quite persuasive imitation of a world in which things are happening. Only, and this is the important part, it’s NOT the world, and most of the things DIDN’T happen, which seems like something the professional BS purveyors would keep in mind as they map out their strategy.
But somewhere along the line, GOP operatives lost the thread. The half-truths, lies and non-events they devised to manipulate the public became reality for them. In their defense, in a world in which Americans blamed Obama for the recession and nobody wanted to increase taxes and all the campaign polls were skewed to favor Democrats, Mitt Romney may well have won. But actual America is no such place, which was plain to see for anyone who was really looking. Maybe Republicans were so distressed by the facts on the ground that, rather than face the reckoning they have coming with virtually every demographic group that is not Sheldon Adelson, they started sampling the soothing lies they’d concocted to fool other people—just a sip, to take the edge off—and wound up fooling themselves. Bad Karl Rove! Bad Romney staffers! That Kool-Aid wasn’t for you, it was for the voters! Now you’re going to have to make a whole new batch.