Trump’s not “sulking,” he’s waging war on democracy
Don't normalize this
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Trump’s election sabotage campaign is running out of time, but the damage he’s inflicting will have long lasting consequences. Covering this unprecedented attack on American election integrity, the press is still not being honest about Trump’s ruinous final chapter.
The Daily Beast last week reported on Trump’s “quixotic and potentially destructive effort” to steal a victory. “Quixotic” and “possibly destructive”? He’s the first president in 240 years who has not accepted the election results, after losing by six million votes. Worse, he’s been on a three-month crusade to denigrate free and fair elections in America, and he’s making it impossible for there to be a smooth transition of power.
This is so far beyond “quixotic.” Of course it’s destructive to our democracy — does anyone think the Republican Party will soon return to the days of rationally accepting ballot results? The GOP has blown a permanent hole in our election process.
A hallmark failure of the press for four years has been that it refuses to use the proper language to describe the truly lawless nature of Trump and today’s GOP.
Instead of referring to his treasonous post-election behavior surrounding the would-be coup by a power-hungry authoritarian out to steal an election, we get news updates about Trump’s “tactics,” his vague “moves” and “chicanery”; his legal “strategy” and “power play” while “sulking” and “brooding” inside the White House. None of that captures the historic events that have unfolded since Election Day. Events that if they occurred in a foreign country would be covered much differently by the American press.
The idea that Trump’s harmlessly wandering the West Wing in a funk, despondent over his loss doesn’t match reality. In truth, Trump has spent weeks, with laser-like focus, actively trying to engineer the open theft of a presidential contest. He’s dispatched an army of lawyers who are committed to throwing out as many legitimate U.S. votes as possible. When that has proven to be a failure, he’s shifted to getting state Republicans to block or delay the certification of the popular votes in their states. And much of the Republican Party supports him, either publicly or tacitly by standing by and watching.
Trump’s just “sulking” and Republicans are nervous and upset about his actions — that’s the false narrative too many in the press are pushing.
“Senior GOP lawmakers grow anxious over Trump's effort to overturn election results,” read a recent CNN headline. But CNN could find just three Republicans who were supposedly “anxious” about Trump trying to overturn an election where more than 150 million Americans voted. One CNN report last week suggested Republicans had “no choice” but to back Trump’s election sabotage. Politico dismissed Trump’s ongoing rampage as nothing more than “performance art” and “bad sportsmanship.”
When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State to making the stunning inquiry about throwing out legal ballots, the New York Times headline made it seem like a quirky strategy: “Lindsey Graham’s Long-Shot Mission to Unravel the Election Results.”
Amidst Trump’s stunning election sabotage campaign, the Times sat down with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for a lengthy Q&A. The paper did not pose a single question to McCarthy about how the Republican president was trying to get legitimate votes thrown out and overturn an election. Instead, McCarthy and the Times reporters discussed what a long-term asset Trump could be to the Republican Party after he leaves office.
Additionally, the Times cast a sympathetic eye on Republicans state officials who supposedly face the tough “choice” of certifying verified voting results, or helping Trump cast doubt on them as he tries to overturn an election. That’s a truly dangerous way to view, and to present, what’s currently unfolding.
Incredibly, Trump-appointed General Services Administrator Emily Murphy who refuses to acknowledge Joe Biden’s victory — her call would officially begin the transition process — has been receiving kid-glove coverage as the press depicts her as simply caught in a tricky position. She’s “struggling” to do the right thing, CNN stressed, while quoting anonymous friends about how honorable she is. What’s the struggle? Biden won, period. Murphy is purposefully making the transition more difficult. Yet, the Washington Post framed the story as a partisan one, suggesting Democrats were “fuming.” Fact is, no GSA in history has refused to acknowledge the clear election winner, the way Murphy now refuses.
Authoritarianism has been on display for weeks now, as Trump throws all his energy into casting doubt over free and fair elections in the world’s oldest democracy. The daily news coverage needs to say so, and drop the idea that Trump’s simply passing his days feeling sorry for himself, in a state of “denial.” He’s been waging a multi-pronged war on America.
💻 GOOD STUFF:
Annenberg School for Communication professor Victor Pickard has an interesting new book out, “Democracy Without Journalism: Confronting the Misinformation Society.” In it, he makes the compelling case for the Public Media Option:
Democratic nations around the globe have somehow figured out how to create strong public media systems while enjoying democratic benefits that put the United States to shame. An ironclad prerequisite for any public media system is that it must be firewalled from government. All donations must be cleansed of institutional or personal attachment to ensure that journalism retains complete independence from any funder or government entity.
1️⃣3️⃣ FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Bedouine, Waxahatchee & Hurray for the Riff Raff, “Thirteen”
What a gorgeous new cover version of Big Star’s iconic ditty, “Thirteen.” An ode to simple, direct songwriting, the tune is just three verses long and perfectly details the melancholy that seems to define the teenage years. Nearly 50 years later, artists are still breathing life into the low-key American classic. Here, in three-part harmonies.
Won't you tell me what you're thinking of?
Would you be an outlaw for my love?
If it's so, well, let me know
If it's no, well, I can go
I won't make you, ooh ooh ooh
Calling Trump's behavior quixotic is like calling the Watergate break-in a prank. The press, and the rest of us, watched with little real worry as McConnell blew a permanent hole in the way the senate did business by abusing the filibuster, using budget shutdowns as a regular component of politics, and blocking supreme court nominations simply by not allowing them to be considered. Seeing Trump's contemptible behavior following the election as quirky risks eventually seeing this sort of behavior as normal politics. I share Eric's concerns on this one.
The media should also be making it clear that Republicans set the stage for Trump. They should be saying things like “after decades of Republicans undermining faith in our elections the Republican base has been primed to believe Trump’s claims” instead of just focusing on what Trump is doing. The GOP has been pushing the voter fraud fairytale for a long time. Bush’s DOJ even fired Republican district attorneys who had refused to bring phony voter fraud cases. And instead of expressing sympathy for Republicans who won’t take the risk of losing their jobs, the media should repeatedly make the point that these are people who have no problem making other people risk their lives in war.
I have recently seen a perfect example of the media ignoring Republican wrongdoing and incompetence. Several times I have heard discussions of how the delayed Bush transition may have been partly responsible for 9-11 as if those attacks happened shortly after Bush took office. The media has completely buried the facts. The incoming Bush administration was given strong warnings by the outgoing Clinton administration about the danger Bin Laden posed. Clinton personally briefed Bush and Sandy Berger personally warned Condi. For months after that Richard Clarke repeatedly warned Condi Rice and others. Their response was to demote him. Starting in the spring Bush’s top national security people started warning about a coming attack by Bin Laden. On July 10 Tenet’s team was so worried that he demanded an immediate meeting with Condi and her team. They were told that Bin Laden would attack us soon and those attacks would be “spectacular”.
(That article is from the EU edition of politico not the US one.)
A few days ago I heard Lawrence Wilkerson make the argument that the delayed transition affected Bush’s ability to protect us, citing the fact that they didn’t even have a meeting of top level officials from different departments until mid August. The person interviewing him didn’t bother to ask how the delayed transition had prevented them from having that meeting in the early weeks of Bush’s term. The Clinton administration had had these kinds of meetings several times a month.
The media was outraged when they learned that Trump ignored warnings from his national security people but they are trying to give Bush an excuse for ignoring warnings that we were going to be attacked. By allowing Republicans to get away with outrageous behavior they have lowered the bar for judging all Republicans. By the time Trump was on the scene Republicans were already both extreme and incompetent but had paid no consequences. I think it is really dangerous that the media is not only downplaying what Trump is doing but that they acting like Trump is an aberration, not the result of the path Republicans chose a long time ago. I strongly believe that years of the media normalizing Republicans’ outrageous behavior.