The Coast Isn't Clear
How you’ve been misled into believing the midterms averted catastrophe.
It’s now been three weeks since the midterm election, and, as usual, three weeks of endless analysis of the political and legislative implications of the outcome. Or, put another way: the usual journalistic malpractice. This time it was the “repudiation” of Trumpism and the speeding red bullet dodged by the Democrats.
Even as American democracy struggles for survival, the Washington press corps — among whom conventional wisdom is the very breath of life — cannot escape its epigenetic compulsion to explain it all through the prism of political gamesmanship.
There is much to detest about the reflexes of journo-mandarins, elevated to their roles by dependably mimicking generations of their Predecessors in Reductiveness. There is the inherent corruption of access journalism, the systemic complicity with self-interested parties for the sake of stories that advance those parties’ interests with little or no benefit to the audience. The most egregious modern example was The New York Times’ Judith Miller in the run-up to the invented Iraq War, but every day reporters of respected news organizations make themselves willing patsies for the machinations of the people they are supposed to be holding accountable.
Every single day, according to a source who asked not to be identified.
There is also the nearly religious fealty to opinion polls, shown time and again to mispredict outcomes — not because polling, per se, is meritless, but because technology and human behavior have rendered nearly impossible the essential requirement to question a representative sample of the electorate. Why was the supposed Red Wave not seen to be dubious? Because young people don’t answer their fucking phones. This was not somehow unknown by the principals. No matter, they all chased the Red Herring, and 2024 will yield the same irrational faith in numbers with feet of clay.
But most of all — most chronic and most dangerous of political journalism’s intractable failings — is the relentless and perverse gamification of contemporary history. It’s often described as “horserace” coverage, as the American political reporter cannot seem to resist covering human events like the ebb and flow of a sporting event. As if there were no stakes beyond win or lose. Which is almost cruel in its cynicism and malignant disregard for the welfare of the people.
Only through such a mentality could the November election be represented universally as a near miss for anti-democracy — versus what it actually detected, documented and imposed: a lethal variant of the fascism virus. American democracy was on the brink, and so it remains. Not that you’d get that impression consuming mainstream news.
No need to turn to headlines from Politico, The Hill, CNN or other outlets whose core coverage is explicitly about ebbs and flows. Here are two recent headlines from The New York Times:
Republicans Barely Won the House. Now Can They Run It?
Why Republicans’ Wafer-Thin House Majority Is a Gift for Democrats
In the first piece, Carl Hulse concludes:
The election results are still being microscopically analyzed by both parties to discern the messages from voters, which could inform how party leaders proceed over the next two years with a presidential contest on the horizon. But one thing is already clear: With an almost nonexistent majority in the House, Republicans are in for a rough ride, and it will be a challenge to get even the most basic work of Congress done.
Then, courtesy of Blake Hounshell, a second serving of political analysis premised on the slim House majority held by a warring Republican conference:
That might not seem obvious at first; Democrats would have loved to keep it, and I’m not suggesting otherwise. For those focused on progressive policy goals, it’s a disaster. But given how the midterm picture appeared entering this year, keeping the Senate and narrowly losing the House are both huge accomplishments and an extraordinary stroke of political luck for Democrats.
In that passage, Hounshell reveals everything wrong with inside-the-beltway mentality: For those focused on progressive policy goals, it’s a disaster. Yes, for those pathetic bleeding hearts more concerned with actual consequences than with the leadership challenge facing Kevin McCarthy, the bonanza is beyond their capacity to grasp.
Such as their naive obsession with the most important story and most cataclysmic event in the history of the world, namely climate change. The GOP majority has already declared its intention to shut down the committee devoted to preserving planet Earth — because the heating of the atmosphere and oceans, like Covid, vaccines and elections, are an affront to their ideology. To these bible-thumping, gun-toting, Big Energy suckling mouthbreathers, saving the world from incineration is just sooooo woke. What we call planetary suicide they call “energy independence.” And like “2nd Amendment” and “Patriot,” they hallow it as Gospel.
As they stage incendiary hearings to avenge Trump’s impeachments and the January 6 committee, the language of Holy War will be everywhere. If you liked Benghazi, “Fast and Furious” and Hillary’s email server, you will love Hunter Biden’s laptop — only this time around, social media and the vast Nazisphere will greatly amplify the vilification of political adversaries.
Prepare for the heyday of perpetually infuriated Jim Jordan (R-You fucking kidding me?). He will be the shirtsleeves Torquemada, Grand Inquisitor, raging without evidence at the non-existent high crimes and misdemeanors of, say, Dr. Anthony Fauci, while Jordan’s lord and savior Donald Trump was actually committing high crimes and misdemeanors as regularly as the equinox. Cheap theatrics destined to lead to nowhere legislatively? Sure, probably. But this is nothing to roll your eyes at. “Fast and Furious” took place in a near vacuum of public attention. In a socially mediated world, as we have learned again and again, the 30% MAGA cohort is prone to political violence. The GOP House will be the Incitement Caucus.
Don’t imagine that “moderates” will keep the lid on, either. The GOP now consists of hardline conservatives on the left and complete fucking reactionary lunatics on the right. Because it will indeed be difficult for Kevin McCarthy to govern without their votes, he will cede the pulpit to the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene, moron provocateur. She and her Christofascist cronies will spew lies, hate and propaganda 24/7.
They will also attempt to shut down the government. They will hold Ukraine military aid hostage, or worse, openly support a mass-murdering Russian war criminal. They will block legislation guaranteeing reproductive rights and lift not a finger to expand access to the voting booth. Rather, they will interfere with voting rights at every opportunity.
Meanwhile, in the states, following the example of Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Gilead), rightwing governors, legislators and judges will unconstitutionally impose retrograde laws and executive orders explicitly to undermine liberal democracy and the human rights it is built upon.
That is the Red Wave that supposedly did not engulf us. The coast is not in any way clear. Au contraire. The tide is rising. The next storm is on the way.