By Jay Hansen
As 2012 finally wraps up in these next few hours, I find myself pondering what this year will be remembered for, at least politically speaking. The obvious answer is the presidential election, but those happen every four years. What was the big political meta-event that defined the year? Frankly, I think 2012 may be remembered as the year the GOP bubble finally popped.
What exactly do I mean by that? Surely I don’t just mean the election, or even elections, in November. Political tides come and go, and just because Democrats picked up seats in 2012 doesn’t mean they’re going to pick up more, or even retain what they have, in 2014. Hell, if anything, odds are they’re going to lose seats in 2014 as the incumbent president’s party usually does under tough economic times. I’m never a fan of being a sore winner, so I didn’t overly-ambitiously proclaim that the Republican Party is gone for good and Democrats will never lose control of the Senate or anything like that after the election, nor is this what I’m doing now. What I can’t help but feel is the rattling the Republican establishment, and many of its blind party followers, felt this year from multiple events left them shaken. In today’s America, if something is powerful enough to shake a Republican, it’s damn powerful.
Let me explain what I’m talking about. The best example of this “bubble bursting” was in fact on election night. The famous FOX “News” Karl Rove meltdown was the beginning of it, but as the days wore on we learned that Romney genuinely believed that he had this election in the bag, as did his entire campaign, party, and ideological followers within the media. He was so over confident that he was sure of himself that he was going to win Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ohio, so in the last week of the campaign he started working in Pennsylvania, one of the most solidly blue states in America. This puzzled countless political experts and commentators, myself included. The numbers just weren’t on his side, and I don’t just mean in Pennsylvania. In Wisconsin, Minnesota, and even Ohio Romney was behind in all credible polling agencies and pollster analyses, yet for some reason Romney’s team was convinced he’d win them. Romney didn’t even write a concession speech until hours after all major news networks had called the election for Obama. The problem, of course, was that Romney wasn’t using “credible” numbers. Romney only used internal polling and data collection from… you guessed it… FOX “news” and conservative media, who were shouting from the rooftops every day that Romney was going to win in an attempt to make his victory seem inevitable to the standard conservative media audience, bolstering moral amongst Republican voters and attempting to disenfranchise some people who would have otherwise voted for Obama to not vote at all.
Romney, his campaign, his supporters, his voters, and most of all the Republican Party fell for their own propaganda. It made them over confident and cocky, leading them to make extremely poor decisions in campaign advertising, spending, and efforts in the wrong states, and thus at least in part contributing to his crushing defeat in the November election.
Look, I know any time a Presidential election involves challenging an incumbent the challenging party tends to not have their house in proper order, at least in modern politics (John Kerry, Bob Dole, Michael Dukakis, etc), so I know taking this as some end-all liberal victory is not the right approach. What I’m trying to point out here is that people in conservative media will just outright lie about the facts to convince their audience that they are superior. The Romney campaign’s dismayed and speechless response to their nearly statistically inevitable, crushing loss was when the bubble broke, and I don’t think enough people realized it.
The creators of the propaganda and false information were releasing data that was just wrong. It disagreed with virtually all credible information sources, but they kept putting it out there anyway in an attempt to sway or frame the conversation in America. They kept doing it so much that the creators of the false information began to believe it as true. What happened in November should have served as a wake-up call for every American; the American right-wing does not use facts. They do not have facts on their side, they are dishonest, they lie, and generally do whatever it takes to win no matter how unethical or questionable. The party establishment got a cold reminder of this in 2012. It was almost like when Romney lost they had an awkward silent moment back at headquarters when they all remembered “oh yeah, we lie. I forgot that. I guess that’s why our numbers didn’t add up with anyone else’s. They were lies.”
But it goes beyond just the Presidential election too. It may have been the biggest needle to pop the GOP bubble, but it certainly wasn’t the only one. It was also popped by science. Climate change denial has been reduced to pseudo-science at best. State plans to divert public education students into religious, private schools fell flat in Louisiana. Politicians who have voiced or even indicated that they don’t believe in the Big Bang theory, evolution, or believe that the world is only a few thousand years old did great, possibly irrevocable damage to their reputations. Worst of all though were the Republicans that basically said to the world they have no clue how female reproduction works, most notably Todd Akin of Missouri who claimed the female body is capable of preventing pregnancy if she is raped, which is based in no science whatsoever save the ludicrous, unfounded writing of an ultra-conservative “doctor” John Wilke. Tragically, Wilke’s not some lone nut; it turns out he’s campaigned for Romney in the past and his work is the foundation of most Republican anti-choice ideology.
The Republican bubble was popped by progressive ideological victories as well. We now have ten states (counting the District of Columbia) wherein gay marriage is legal, and two where marijuana is completely legal for recreational use, let alone medical. We even had our first state propose a state question that would legalize doctor-assisted suicide in Massachusetts. Sure, it didn’t pass, but the fact that it even appeared on a ballot shows great progress towards left-wing ideology, and hopefully a return to sanity in this nation’s political spectrum.
The Republican bubble was popped most violently by the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. It’s now become painfully obvious that guns have gotten out of hand in America today, and the conservative argument that more guns equals less gun violence is indisputably false, as blatantly obvious as that already was to a vast majority of Americans. More people have taken an interest in gun control after this shooting than ever before in recent history, and normally outspoken, chest-beating gun-nuts have fallen unusually silent. When they do talk, they either makes buffoons of themselves or are strongly, immediately criticized by even our weak-sauce mainstream media.
The Republican bubble was also popped, or at least it very well could have been, by the most underreported story of the year, and it really ties in to my previous points about FOX “News” and the bubble of reality it creates. Did you know that FOX “News” bribed General Petraeus to run for President against Obama on the Republican ticket? In 2011, FOX national security analyst Kathleen McFarland spoke with General Petraeus and told him that Roger Ailes, President of FOX, said that if Obama does not offer Petraeus the position of Joint Chiefs of Staff then he should resign and campaign for the Republican nomination. If he did so, Roger Ailes promised to quit FOX to run Petraeus’ campaign. More than that, Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp, would fund his campaign for him.
But no, FOX “News” is “fair and balanced,” right? If this story doesn’t convince you that the guys operating FOX have a specific political agenda I don’t know what will. The written word really can’t do this story justice; I encourage you to click the hyperlink to hear the tones and context of Petraeus ooing and awing over FOX, and to fully comprehend the implications of one of our top generals being given “orders” from the President of FOX “News.”
FOX and the establishment conservative media all have a specific, aggressively pursued political agenda. They misrepresent the facts and sometimes outright lie about the numbers and disregard anything that disagrees with them no matter how credible or factual. This is the absolute least that we’ve learned beyond reasonable doubt in this bubble-popping year. Add to it the fundamental anti-science reputation and ideology of the party, and the massive ideological losses they suffered when it comes to the war on drugs, gay marriage, abortion, and indirectly immigration and the Latino vote, I honestly don’t see a future for the Republican Party that doesn’t involve them changing.
It’s not just me saying that though; the pollster guru of the 2012 election Nate Silver had a dire warning to the Republican Party after the election. Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania are strongly locked up as blue states now despite what Romney believed. Virginia, a longtime swing state, is on the verge of becoming blue. North Carolina, a member of the old, dependable “southern strategy” confederacy is in full swing. Now, with the changes the Latino vote is bringing amongst other minorities, within the next decade we could see Arizona or maybe even Texas come in play as swing states.
It’s not all bad news for Republicans though; they did have two major victories this year. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin became the first Governor in history to survive a recall election with the help of millions of dollars from out-of-state donors, and after years of campaigning they managed to turn Michigan, the very heart of the union-worker’s America, into a right to work state, greatly endangering and weakening unions. They only managed that, however, with the most abject lie of 2012 outside of the Presidential elections, given that Governor Rick Snyder promised in his campaign that right to work was not on his agenda and he would not do it. So congratulations Republicans; you managed to re-elect a crooked Governor and brazenly lied to your voters in order to further degrade worker pay, benefits, and the decency with which we treat them.
The only reason either of these two things happened, however, was because of the severe lack of regulations and restrictions on campaign finance. Snyder may have still managed to win his election and get his right to work law through, but I find it extremely unlikely that Walker would have still won re-election without his treasure trove of money flowing in from out-of-state donors, people who weren’t supposed to have any say in Wisconsin state politics. Victories like this, and the fact that I’m not a fortune teller, least of all for small-scale politics of which party wins or loses how many seats in what particular election, keep me from saying that the American right-wing as we know it is done for simply because of this year’s Presidential and Congressional elections. Once we can overturn Citizens United, however, and can again limit and regulate political bribery, the question of whether the Republican Party in its current form can stand the test of time will finally become one worth giving heavy consideration. So maybe, if we’re going to be making any new years resolutions tonight, consider resolving to do more to help efforts to overturn Citizens United, such as helping more with Wolf-PAC. We need all the support we can get.
While I’ve had Auld Lang Syne stuck in my head all day, I thought I’d leave you with something a little more fitting for this particular look back at the lessons learned from this year. Happy 2013 everyone.