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Hurtling down a path of denialism that has no precedent in mainstream American politics, today's Republican Party represents an unwieldy challenge for the press, as the GOP wantonly sets out to invalidate election results and simultaneously endanger the masses during a public healthy crisis by deliberately misinforming Americans about the Covid-19 pandemic.
That election denial married with the Covid denial means one of our two major political parties has unchained itself from reality. It's now a marauding movement determined to cause harm to the country and our democracy — and the press has no idea how to cover it. Unwilling to be clear and blunt about what's happening and the national risk the GOP represents, the press seems determined to keep portraying the Republican Party as a center-right outlet.
"It’s impossible to escape the fact the GOP no longer supports democracy. At every level they are supporting nullifying a free and fair election," former Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart recently tweeted. "They are not sliding toward fascism, they’re already there." Don't look for news coverage to match that accurate appraisal.
The shocking election and Covid denial now on display means the press has to find a new way to deal with the GOP. The problem is, the Beltway media have been reluctant to change in the face of the Trump onslaught over the last four years. He arrived in Washington, D.C., as the most radical and dangerous president in our 240-year history, and the press made no wholesale changes in terms of how it covers the Trump White House — unless you count cable news channels deciding to air every second of every White House press briefing, and treating every Trump utterance as Breaking News.
In terms of dramatically altering the way it deals with a chronic liar in the Oval Office, in terms of how it deals with an authoritarian figure who despises the democratic process, the Beltway press has made very few adjustments, and instead has often covered Trump as if he were merely an eccentric player — he's not an unstable, pathological liar, he's somebody who "traffics in falsehoods."
We've seen the same whitewashing of the Republican Party. “Senior GOP lawmakers grow anxious over Trump's effort to overturn election results,” read a recent CNN headline. But CNN could only find three Republicans out of more than 200 in Congress who were supposedly “anxious” and upset about Trump trying to overturn an election where more than 150 million Americans voted. Indeed, weeks later, more than 100 Republican members of the House supported an audacious lawsuit that asked the Supreme Court to throw out 20 million votes in four key states that cemented the president’s loss. (Republicans were only concerned with supposed fraud in states that Trump lost.) A New York Times headline suggested those 100-plus Republicans were merely "playing" to the GOP "base," as if that political calculation made it okay to brazenly support the overturning on U.S. election results.
Still determined to portray the GOP as serious, honorable and deeply torn about Trump, CNN last week weighed in again, suggesting Republicans would soon be "ready" to acknowledge Biden's win, and were "struggling" with Trump's refusal to concede. That was depicted by CNN as Republicans trying to do the right thing. But the mere fact that timid Republicans, one month after Biden's obvious victory, were still just tip-toeing up to the acknowledgement line meant the CNN report should've emphasized how unhinged the GOP has become.
It all fits into a four-year Beltway media obsession with trying to prop up the idea that the GOP remains deeply distressed by Trump’s un-American behavior, and is privately aghast at his attacks on the democratic process. But last week's sham lawsuit that 107 members of Congress signed off on, including GOP leaders, obliterated that preferred media narrative.
And then there's Covid denialism. Hospitals in the U.S. are being overrun, there's a national nurse shortage, and 50,000 Americans died in just the last month — the same number of U.S. casualties from a decade of fighting in Vietnam. Yet conservative denialists reject even the simplest precaution, such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. The unprecedented misinformation campaign is being fueled by the country's highest-rated cable news channel, an entire right-wing media infrastructure, and large portions of the Republican Party.
Republicans in the Indiana state legislature recently refused to pass a mandate for all members to wear masks during legislative sessions, at a time when Indiana's Covid cases are now surging to an all-time high. In Michigan, domestic, right-wing terrorists were arrested for allegedly plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and to executive public officials, to punish her for taking steps to try to manage the spread of the pandemic. Even after the arrest, Trump continued to taunt and attack her online, adding more fuel to the raging rhetorical fire.
The GOP has now fully bowed down to Trump's nihilist tendencies, and no longer occupies the American mainstream. The press coverage ought to reflect that.
📋 #ETTD. Until this week, I didn’t realize that hashtag stands for Everything Trump Touches Dies. It’s so true, which makes the sycophantic rush by conservative wannabe power players to be around Trump all the more puzzling.
From the Bulwark’s “Everyone Trump Touches Dies: The List”:
Every presidential administration chews up and spits out one or two people. But the sheer number of people who had their lives and/or careers destroyed over four years of swimming in Donald Trump’s slipstream is kind of staggering. So let’s take a walking tour through the human wreckage of the Trump years.
It’s quite a list.
🎙 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Taylor Swift, "Willow"
Five months after releasing one of the year's most critically acclaimed albums, folklore, Swift stunned her fans by putting out a companion, full-length record last week, evermore. She's creating on an extraordinarily high level these days, both artistically and commercially.
Continuing to revel in a lush, indie folk sound (lots of fingerpicking guitar playing), Swift's songwriting remains magnetic. “Willow” is another hypnotic love song from her.
Life was a willow, and it bent right to your wind
They count me out time and time again
Life was a willow, and it bent right to your wind
But I come back stronger than a '90s trend
P.S. Swift also released a banger dance remix of "Willow."
The Republican Party reminds me of the old story -- Solzhenitsyn, I think -- of a District Communist Party meeting where someone called for a round of applause to mark Comrade Stalin's birthday, and an hour later everyone was still on their feet applauding because no one wanted to be pegged as The First One To Stop Clapping.
A subset of Americans revel in denying truth, refusing science, and harming their fellow man. They follow a shameless cult of personality, cultivated by years of light-hearted talk of murdering liberals and minorities. Hate Radio was once a test of press freedom, but has become the basis for countless festering wounds in our failure to curtail false narratives and talk of civil war. If the press cannot bring itself to tell the truth, and the Senate cannot be wrestled from active sedition, the American experiment will end.