If you’d prefer to listen to today’s newsletter, click play.
Note to loyal readers: Please consider subscribing for $6 a month. Thanks for keeping PRESS RUN ad-free!
Scrambling in the wake of Joe Biden's seven-million vote victory in November, Republicans continue to mount a powerful and unapologetic campaign to suppress voting. With so many state legislatures under GOP control, Republicans are sponsoring more than 250 bills aimed at drastically reducing ballot access in coming years. It's being done under the phony banner of "election security." After 2020, Republicans don’t want lots of people voting, especially lots of Black people. So far, the media’s failing to accurately label the crisis that’s unfolding.
The avalanche of bills aim to shorten the early voting period, reduce the number of hours that people can vote on Election Day, eliminate drive-through voting centers, create stricter deadlines for returning absentee ballots, block early voting on Sunday, limit ballot drop boxes, restrict mail-in voting —basically any possible initiative Republicans can think of that would suppress the vote. The obvious implication is that Republicans understand their chances of winning elections decrease when voter turnout increases. And 2020 shattered American records for voter participation. It all represents a massive attempt to roll back democracy.
And it's clearly voter suppression, which is defined as, "any legal or extralegal measure or strategy whose purpose or practical effect is to reduce voting."
The good news is we've seen lots of in-depth, aggressive reporting from various news outlets on the GOP's plan to rewrite election rules in this country. The bad news is that message is getting muted by refusing to call this strategy what it is — voter suppression. The press prefers to frame the GOP's war on democracy as another Both Sides, partisan dust-up over "voting restrictions." That plays right into the hands of Republicans.
"The fact that we are about to be hit with a tidal wave of voter suppression legislation by Republican legislatures throughout the country is the most under reported story right now," Democratic election attorney Mark Elias recently tweeted. "The media is unequipped to cover this in clear moral terms and instead prefers to both sides it."
There’s a deliberate media movement underway to not use the clear, accurate language to describe Republican efforts to suppress the vote, just like there was a deliberate media movement to not accurately describe Trump as a "liar" for four years. (Instead, he pushed "falsehoods" and "exaggerations.") The media erected guardrails against calling Trump and his followers liars. Now we're seeing the same word games employed to avoid "voter suppression."
A recent CNN headline announced, "Arizona Republican Lawmakers Join GOP Efforts to Target Voting, With Nearly Two Dozen Restrictive Voting Measures." Neither the headline nor the article used the phrase "voter suppression" used to describe the GOP's obvious attempt at voter suppression. Yet the URL for the CNN report did make that reference: "politics/arizona-republicans-voter-suppression-bills/." Meaning, inside the CNN newsroom, it's common knowledge Republicans are passing "voter suppression bills." But CNN reporters aren't using that language in their accounts.
Virtually every major news organization is guilty of the same misstep:
• "Republicans Advance More Than 100 Bills That Would Restrict Voting in Wake of Trump's Defeat" (NBC News)
• "State GOP Lawmakers Propose Flurry of Voting Restrictions to Placate Trump Supporters, Spurring Fears of a Backlash" (Washington Post)
• "Republican-Led Legislatures in Dozens of States Are Moving to Change Election Laws in Ways That Could Make it Harder to Vote" (NPR)
An Associated Press headline recently announced, "Critics: GOP Measures Target Black Voter Turnout in Georgia." But why use the "critics" framing? Why can't the AP simply treat as fact what is obviously factual — Republicans are pushing voter laws in Georgia specifically designed to suppress the Black vote.
The Washington Post failed in the same way recently: "A GOP Lawmaker Says The ‘Quality’ of a Vote Matters. Critics Say that’s ‘Straight out of Jim Crow.’" That is straight out of Jim Crow. The Post doesn't need to hide behind "critics" to make that point.
What's driving the media hesitation? Maybe it's because "voter suppression" sounds un-American. It sounds undemocratic, and it sounds like advocates don't support free and fair elections in this country. It’s much easier, and more polite, to use the watered down "voter restriction" description. Voter "restrictions" sound somewhat plausible or defensible. "Suppression" sounds illegal.
Voter suppression has a dark history in this country as a tool used to deter Black Americans and other minorities from voting, and from the media's perspective it's not something mainstream politicians endorse. The press very much wants to portray the GOP simply as a center-right party.
But words matter, especially when dealing with today's radical and dangerous Republican Party. America learned that painful lesson during the Trump years when the Beltway media played senseless semantics games in order to obscure the truth about the GOP.
That truth was confirmed last winter when nearly 150 Republican members of Congress signed an amicus brief supporting a extreme lawsuit that urged the Supreme Court to throw out tens of millions of legitimate, legally cast votes, in order to clear a path for a bogus Trump victory. Lying about presidential election results is now, without question, a mainstream Republican talking point. As is the Big Lie about how the U.S. election system today is fraught with fraud, which requires legislative fixes in the form of voter suppression initiatives.
The media fell down covering the Big Lie last winter. And now it's falling down with the voter suppression challenge.
(Photo Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
⚖️ GOOD STUFF:
One of the Trump scandals that still deserves close scrutiny is the Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. Specifically, the joke investigation the FBI did at the height of the controversy.
From The Guardian’s “FBI Facing Allegation That Its 2018 Background Check of Brett Kavanaugh Was ‘Fake’”:
Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic senator and former prosecutor who serves on the judiciary committee, is calling on the newly-confirmed attorney general, Merrick Garland, to help facilitate “proper oversight” by the Senate into questions about how thoroughly the FBI investigated Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing…Among the concerns listed in Whitehouse’s letter to Garland are allegations that some witnesses who wanted to share their accounts with the FBI could not find anyone at the bureau who would accept their testimony and that it had not assigned any individual to accept or gather evidence.
🇨🇮 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
The Irish Tenors, “Toora-Loora-Looral”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, mom!
Over in Killarney, many years ago
My mother sang a song to me in tones so soft and low
Just a simple little ditty, in her good old Irish way
And I'd give the world if I could hear that song of hers today