Thursday, November 19, 2020


One of the main reasons we're in this mess is that Republicans have spent years preparing their voters for a moment like this -- and Democrats haven't.

As I often say, the right-wing media and Republican officials tell GOP base voters every day, whether or not we're in election season, that Democrats are evil, deceitful people who are responsible for all the ills of the world, occasionally in partnership with alleged allies such as antifa or the jihadist movement. Republicans voters have heard this for so many years that they don't need to be persuaded that Joe Biden -- who seems like a decent, human person to us -- is either the mastermind or the unwitting dupe of a fiendish plot cooked up by all-powerful supervillains to steal an election. Of course Biden and his henchmen could fake a couple hundred thousand votes in six states! Of course they could conceal the evidence so deftly that President Trump's lawyers and investigators can't uncover it! The absence of evidence isn't proof that the election was honest and fair -- it couldn't possibly be! Democrats are too evil! No dyed-in-the-wool Republican voter needs evidence to be persuaded that something terribe happened. Our malign nature is an article of faith! Proof isn't necessary.

Republicans and the right-wing media have been preparing this ground since the George W. Bush administration sought to fire U.S. attorneys who wouldn't hunt for Democratic voter fraud. The crusade to root out nonexistent electoral fraud was accompanied by Republican state efforts to purge Democratic voters from the rolls while piling on ever more onerous voter ID laws. Democrats still managed an impressive turnout in this election, but the message is still out there: Whenever Democrats vote, there's cheating taking place. Who needs evidence when this has been repeated for more than a decade on Fox News and talk radio, and in every legislative chamber run by Republicans?

Meanwhile, Democrats never say that Republican are evil. Some of us have grasped this on our own, maybe with the help of MSNBC prime-time hosts or online commentators -- but the vast majority of Democratic voters, many of whom are self-styled moderates and live in red or purple communities, never hear this message. In fact, they hear the opposite message from politicians like Barack Obama and Joe Biden: There isn't a red or blue America. There's one America. We're not enemies. From Biden this year, they heard repeatedly that it was safe to vote for him because so many Republicans vouched for him. That helped Biden win, but it reinforced the GOP's message that Democrats are suspect and Republicans are the good guys.

That's one wing of the Democratic Party. The other wing is the progressive wing, and while its members often denounce Republican policies, they're also highly critical of mainstream Democrats. Listen to them long enough and you lose sight of the fact that while mainstream Democrats often fail to deliver for ordinary people, Republicans are much, much worse.

And the mainstream media seems incapable of imagining the possibility that the Republican Party might be dangerous and malignant. Surely it's just Donald Trump! Or Trump plus Republicans temporarily in thrall to him! Surely the party's four years of coddling Trump aren't a sign that there's something inherently wrong with the party, any more than the GOP's extreme positions on climate change and gun ownership and abortion and the regulation and taxation of rich people and corporations are signs that the party can't be trusted! Despite all that, the GOP is seen not only as a respectable center-right party but as the party of normal Americans, while the Democratic Party is the party of non-whites and effete white freaks and weirdos.

And so much of the population -- including a significant majority of white Americans -- simply can't imagine that the Republican Party could be a threat to America, while the same people find it easy to believe that the Democratic Party is precisely that, because they never hear anyone (Democratic politicians, media figures) arguing that the former is true, and they frequently hear that the latter is true. Therefore, they can't see the Republicans' attempt to steal this presidential election for the assault on democracy that it is. People they've heard are bad have been accused of bad things; people they've heard are good are the accusers. So of course they can't grasp what's clearly going on.

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