February 22, 2023
Last week’s court filing in the Dominion Voting Systems case proved that Fox News Channel personalities knew full well that Joe Biden had won the 2020 presidential election. They pushed Trump’s Big Lie of voter fraud anyway, afraid they would lose viewers to right-wing networks that were willing to parrot that lie.
Since the 1980s, Republicans have relied on a false narrative to win voters. To get rid of the active government put in place after 1933 to put guardrails around the unfettered capitalism that had led to the Depression, they argued that government regulation, the social safety net, civil rights, and investment in infrastructure were socialism and were undermining traditional America.
Their argument was that business regulation gave the government control over the way a man ran his business, and that taxes to support government bureaucracy, social services, and public investments redistributed wealth from white men to minorities and women. Real Americans, they suggested, must be willing to defend themselves and the country against the “socialist” national government.
Lately, this determination to get rid of the New Deal government has taken the shape of cutting Social Security and Medicare, which led to the brouhaha over President Biden’s charge during the State of the Union address that Republicans would cut those programs. After Republicans booed him and called him a liar, he backed them into agreeing they would take cuts off the table.
But former vice president Mike Pence brought it up once more this morning on CNBC, saying, “While I respect the speaker’s commitment to take Social Security and Medicare off the table for the debt ceiling negotiations, we’ve got to put them on the table in the long term,” because they were facing “insolvency.”
Reversing 40 years of Republican tax cuts would also address financial shortfalls, but that approach does not fit the Republican narrative that cutting taxes promotes growth and raises revenue.
As their policies became increasingly unpopular, Republicans ramped up that narrative until we have the extraordinary scenario we saw last night: former president Trump telling a campaign audience that the United States has blown right past socialism and is now a communist, Marxist country. That, of course, would mean that the people’s government owns the means of production: the factories, services, and so on.
Instead, as President Biden pointed out today in response to right-wing attempts to blame his administration for the Ohio derailment, deregulation has moved money upward and compromised Americans’ safety. He noted that he has committed the federal government to make sure Ohio has all it needs to address the crisis. Then he added: “Rail companies have spent millions of dollars to oppose common-sense safety regulations. And it’s worked. This is more than a train derailment or a toxic waste spill—it’s years of opposition to safety measures coming home to roost.”
That narrative has also enshrined the idea that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, originally intended to limit the federal government’s power over state militias but now interpreted to mean that individuals have a right to own whatever weaponry they want, defines the nation. After a number of right-wing congressional lawmakers have taken to wearing assault rifle lapel pins, Representative Barry Moore (R-AL) this week introduced a bill to make the AR-15 the “National Gun of America.” Moore claims that “The anti–Second Amendment group won’t stop until they take away all your firearms.”
From February 17 through February 19, there were ten mass shootings in the United States. According to Grace Hauck of USA Today, there were “two mass shootings in Georgia and Missouri and one each in Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Louisiana, South Carolina and Mississippi.” Thirteen people were killed and 46 injured. At least 15 of the victims were under 20. Mass shootings are up in 2023 compared to 2022: 82 this year, compared with 59 at the same time last year.
The idea of strangling government programs and saving tax dollars has gotten to the point that we had the extraordinary scene in Alaska earlier this week of Republican state representative David Eastman, who attended the January 6, 2021, rally in Washington, D.C., suggesting that children dying of child abuse would save the state money in the social services those children would otherwise need.
The Republican narrative to attract voters, as warped as it has become, has now begun to drive the government itself. Today, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Isaac Stanley-Becker of the Washington Post reported that after the 2020 election, Arizona’s then–attorney general, Mark Brnovich, concealed a report produced after 10,000 hours of investigation by his own staff, that said virtually all the claims of fraud leveled against the 2020 Arizona election were unfounded.
Brnovich was running to win the Republican nomination for a seat in the U.S. Senate. He kept the report hidden and instead released an “Interim Report” saying that his office had found “serious vulnerabilities.” He continued to circulate hints that the vote was off, somehow, despite fact checks disproving those allegations. His office put together a document refuting the idea the election was stolen and saying that none of the people making that accusation produced any evidence. Brnovich did not release that summary.
In a later memo summarizing their work, investigators noted that none of those making outlandish claims about the election were willing to repeat those claims to agents, when they would be subject to a state law prohibiting them from lying to law enforcement officers.
Brnovich was involved in the Brnovich v. Democratic National Committeecase, decided in July 2021 by the Supreme Court, that made it much harder to challenge voting restrictions that make it harder for minorities to vote. Voters replaced Brnovich this year with Kris Mayes, a Democrat, who shifted Brnovich’s “Election Integrity Unit,” which focused on fraud, to address voter suppression.
The attempt to maintain the Republican narrative is now deeply embedded in the government itself. House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has apparently given to Tucker Carlson of the Fox News Channel exclusive access to more than 44,000 hours of video taken within the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. This amounts to “one of the worst security risks since 9/11,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said in protest today, “a treasure trove of closely held information about how the Capitol complex is protected.”
Carlson has repeatedly challenged the official accounts of the riot, blaming the federal government for launching the attack and claiming that FBI agents were behind it. Carlson is also one of the key conspirators in the Fox News Channel promotion of the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 election, even though they dismissed that notion privately. The expectation is that Carlson will hack whatever videos he can into a version of the Republican narrative.
But there is more: McCarthy is fundraising off his release of the videos to Carlson, claiming he is delivering “truth and transparency over partisan games” and asking “patriots” to “chip…in” to help House Republicans.