The 2020 election was perhaps one of the most contentious and chaotic in U.S. history. When it was over, the cultural elites expressed relief the voters had chosen to deny President Donald J. Trump a second term.
The race was not close. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s 8 million-plus majority in the popular vote is enough to convince all but the most diehard Trump supporters that the election results reflect the will of the people. Some, especially those who continue to claim the results were tainted by fraud point to the fact a shift of fewer than 50,000 votes spread out among several states would have given Trump a majority in the electoral college which, as political science professors are quick to remind skeptics, is the only majority that counts.
The folks who continue to try and relitigate the outcome of the last election are missing the speed with which the current president is losing support. A poll released Tuesday by Scott Rasmussen found half of all registered voters believe the nation would be better off today had the now-former president been re-elected.
The Rasmussen poll had 50 percent of the more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed saying things “would be better today” if Trump had beaten Biden – including 34 percent who said things would be “much better.” Just 39 percent of those participating in the survey said things would be worse while just about one in ten said they would be the same no matter who won.
These numbers may seem shocking given the mostly favorable coverage Biden has received since his inauguration but, say some Washington veterans, the political operation inside the White House and the Democratic National Committee should have seen it coming. In recent weeks the president has stumbled from failure to failure, projecting an image of incompetence that contrasts sharply with the image of a commanding leader he projected during the 2020 campaign.
Biden came into office projecting national unity as a way of contrasting him with what some said were the divisions of the Trump years. His initial approval numbers, which hovered around 60 percent, have dropped off sharply in recent weeks beginning with the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops of Afghanistan that many say the administration badly mismanaged.
In his analysis of the numbers, pollster Rasmussen suggests another reason may be at the heart of the decline Faced with rising numbers of COVID infections even after the introduction of vaccines produced in record time because Trump cut federal red tape, Biden has proposed mandated vaccinations for federal workers and others that, while “moderately popular overall,” are viewed skeptically by Black voters and Hispanics.
Rasmussen’s data found that “26 percent of Black Democrats believe individuals should decide for themselves whether to get vaccinated” while “60 percent of Hispanic voters have a close friend or relative who will get vaccinated against their will because they can’t afford to lose their job.”
These numbers are largely on par with those who said things in the U.S. today would be better if Trump had won.
“Overall, a plurality of voters would prefer a candidate who supports Trump-like policies,” the Rasmussen poll said, identifying the potential political danger to supposedly moderate Democrats like Biden who, after winning office in 2020 only by gaining the backing of disaffected Republicans and self-described independents have joined with party progressives in the lurch toward policies that can best be described as big government socialism.
The survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted using a mixed-mode approach from September 16-18, 2021. Most respondents were contacted online or via text while 263 were contacted using automated phone polling techniques. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 percent.
In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden used the word “unity” 11 times to highlight his commitment to bringing the American people together. According to one new poll, it didn’t have much of an effect. His call for a new togetherness to fight what he called “common foes” including resentment, disease, hopelessness, anger, and lawlessness appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
Whatever Biden may have said, most voters, a Rasmussen Reports telephone and online survey of 1,000 likely U.S. voters “think the country has become more divided since Election Day.”
According to the poll, fewer than 1 out of every 5 are “very confident” Mr. Biden will be able to bring Americans together. A majority of those answering the survey – 56 percent – said divisions have increased since the November 2020 election while just 16 percent said they thought the country was “more united.”
Personally, Mr. Biden is doing better than his calls for national healing. His job approval, based on the averaging of six different national polls, stood at 56 percent – not exactly at traditional “Honeymoon” levels but higher than his immediate predecessor was ever able to achieve.
One way in which Mr. Biden himself may have exacerbated existing divisions has been through his aggressive use of executive orders to repeal or make changes to policies enacted during the presidency of Donald J. Trump.
While most of his predecessors – Republicans and Democrats – used this power sparingly during their initial days in office, Mr. Biden has been on something of a tear, issuing nearly two score and counting in his first weeks on the job. One of them, which rescinds the permitting for the Keystone XL pipeline at an estimated cost of more than 10,000 union jobs, has further inflamed the blue vs. green split in the Democratic Party between industrial workers and environmental activists.
The data indicates Mr. Biden has a tough needle to thread moving forward. The coalition that elected him is held together by very thin wire despite his having won a record-shattering 80 million-plus votes in the last election. Without Mr. Trump to keep progressives and Democrats united against a common enemy, the new president’s need to satisfy the demands of the people who put him in office will repeatedly come into conflict over the remainder of his term.
The Rasmussen Reports survey was conducted after Biden’s inauguration on January 25-26, 2021. The data has a reported sampling error of +/- 3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.
As inaugural speeches go, Joe Biden‘s will be remembered (if at all) for its forgettability. Its best line was borrowed. It lacked the soaring rhetoric of a Reagan, Roosevelt or Kennedy calling us to search within ourselves to find the strength to make America the nation most of us believe it can be. It was, instead, as workmanlike and pedestrian as the man who gave it.
In and of itself, this is not an especially bad thing. Biden’s reputation as an orator was irreparably damaged by the plagiarism scandal that destroyed the then-senator’s 1987 run for the Democratic presidential nomination. After four years of flash and sass, the American people may be ready for a president who operates at a consistently lower frequency.
Trump fatigue will only get Biden so far. He’s going to have to produce, and quickly, to show the American people their decision to change horses midstream was the right one. So far, he’s not doing it. His heavy reliance on executive orders to set policy is rankling the remaining constitutionalists within his own party who upbraided his immediate predecessor for doing what the new president himself once referred to as dictatorial. Through executive orders he’s killed jobs, reapplied the heavy hand of federal regulation and readopted radical theories that keep the nation divided into camps. So much for the unity he supposedly called for in his address.
But was he really calling for unity? If Trump was the polarizer, as the conventional wisdom has accepted, then Biden is the unifier whose main job is to bring America together at a time when our differences threaten to rip the very fabric of our democracy apart—at least, this is how the folks on MSNBC and CNN and at The New York Times portray it.
And that’s the tack Biden took in his maiden presidential address. The need to bring the country together, addressing the problems as he defined them would require “that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.”
Biden used that word 11 times in the speech—mostly erroneously. His repeated calls for unity were actually appeals for uniformity which, as any student of democracy will tell you, is among the most undemocratic things that can be found anywhere on Earth. The absence of dissent, the absolute sameness of opinion and direction, is deadly to truth, to scientific inquiry, to progress, to entrepreneurship and to liberty itself.
Biden isn’t alone among the Left and progressives, either in his desire for uniformity or his willingness to disguise it in more noble terms. For years now there’s been a concerted effort to push conservative voices out of the public square. What started on college campuses has spread to the business community, to social media and to the national conversation itself. Progressives believe their analysis of what the problems are and where they came from is conclusive—while efforts to dispute those conclusions are not only disharmonious but dangerous to everyone.
It’s not enough for large groups of people to be woke. Those who are not must be, in the minds of progressives, still asleep. How else does one process the calls from prominent persons for the “deprogramming” of Trump supporters and the suppression by Big Tech of what it all too easily and without basis labels misleading information?
The survival of the American system depends on room continually being made for rigorous, civil, constructive debate, even over topics people find unpleasant. Yes, we must all come together to fight the evils that exist—as Mr. Biden called for us to do in his speech—but who gets to pick what those evils are? This is not an anodyne question. The one who takes it upon himself to define the terms and identify the problems has the advantage when it comes to proposing the solutions.
The sense of oneness Mr. Biden invoked in his calls for “unity” may be benign rather than threatening if he’s leaving room for a broad diversity of opinions and approaches to confronting “the common foes we face: Anger, resentment, hatred. Extremism, lawlessness, violence. Disease, joblessness, hopelessness.” If he’s not—and it’s clear that important leaders in his party and the movement he leads are not—then the nation’s political polarization will continue at an accelerated pace.
America is a big place with room for the big ideas that will see us through our current conflicts. Rather than focus on unity or uniformity, Mr. Biden would do better to approach the challenges before him from the perspective that he needs to build a consensus and not simply expect people to fall in line behind him. There needs to be space for lots of voices—not just his.
A forgettable speech may be just what the country needs
It was impossible to hear Joe Biden’s Inaugural Address without comparing it to Donald Trump’s. Four years ago, Trump blamed the “American carnage” that propelled his rise to power on a feckless and out of touch elite who had collaborated with nefarious outsiders to rob the middle class of its wealth and status. Trump’s speech was brief (16 minutes long), direct, uncompromising, and unforgettable. It left the political world in shock. George W. Bush spoke for many when he was overheard saying, “That was some weird s—t.” The Trump inaugural foretold a presidency like no other.
President Biden’s inaugural could not have been more different. He is Trump’s opposite not only in ideology but also in background and style. Trump was the only president not to have previous government or military experience. Biden served for almost 50 years in Congress and the West Wing. Trump used social media as a weapon in his politics of polarization and confrontation. Biden has gone out of his way to ignore Twitter, and has relied primarily on traditional media to convey his message.
Trump sought to disrupt the norms of Washington because he and his supporters believed those norms had become a cover for American decline. Biden wants to restore the norms, and to lower the political temperature, because he believes, correctly in my view, that civility and proceduralism stand between America and the abyss. Every aspect of Biden’s inaugural—its structure, its bipartisanship, its quotations, its length—furthered his aim of realigning the office of the presidency with its traditions of institutional decorum.
The speech itself was not memorable. But this prosaic quality was in its own way reassuring. After all, most inaugurals are forgotten. (Can you quote a line from either of Bill Clinton’s, or from either of Barack Obama’s?) Biden’s delivery was much stronger than his text. He recapitulated the themes of his campaign, explained how he believes the nation faces crises of public health, economics, racism, and climate, called for national unity, and pledged to serve all of the people. His peroration was inspiring: “With purpose and resolve, we turn to the task of our time, sustained by faith, driven by conviction, and devoted to one another and the country we love with all our hearts.” Overall, however, you came away with the sense that Biden’s presidency will be defined more by actions than by words.
What stood out most about the entire day was its religious spirit. Biden began the morning with a bipartisan Mass. The benedictions before and after the inaugural program were moving. Garth Brooks offered an incredible rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Biden asked all Americans to participate in a moment of silent prayer. He cited Scripture. And in one of the most interesting passages of his address, he invoked Saint Augustine’s description of a people as “a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.”
For Biden, these common objects are values: “Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor, and, yes, the truth.” Few would argue with this list. But its very universality raises the question of what separates Americans from other peoples, elsewhere, who also love opportunity and security and liberty. It’s easy to come up with a more particularistic catalogue of the common objects of our national love: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the national motto and symbol, the flag, the Founders, Lincoln, the Capitol building, the land itself. And this difference between transcendental aspirations and concrete loyalties may be one way of thinking about the gulf that separates left from right.
One danger for Biden is that the electorate will come to view his call for unity as a mask for a partisan liberal agenda. There was little policy in the Inaugural Address, but the executive orders he will sign this afternoon and evening, and the legislation he is proposing to Congress, do not herald a future where the parties are reconciled to one another. His presidency might proceed along two tracks, with Biden standing as a symbol of comity and consensus while his administration sustains and expands the Democratic coalition. Biden might want to pay particular attention to a recent Washington Post /ABC News poll showing that 55 percent of independents have “just some” or “no confidence” in his decision-making abilities. Letting Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have their way will not shrink that number.
For now, the ceremony is over. Joe Biden is left with two jobs: End this pandemic and restore faith in America’s constitutional order. His Inaugural Address was a fair start. But speeches won’t be enough. In his videotaped farewell address, President Trump wished his successor luck. President Biden will need it.
It would be nice if everyone had given their attention to how quickly Congresscompleted its work Wednesday. How, after a brief disruption, it counted the electoral ballots and confirmed President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris‘s victory. That the norms were upheld and the victorious indeed emerged triumphant.
It would be nice—but it would ignore the elephant in the room.
Many regard the U.S. Capitol with the same kind of awe and reverence shown by Jimmy Stewart’s character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I know I do and, after nearly 40 years of being intimately involved in the political process, I confess a great deal of earnest sentimentalism has managed to survive beneath my hard-shell journalistic cynicism.
The Capitol is an amazing building, unique for what it represents. To the world, its dome means freedom, liberty and equality. It stands for the idea every man and woman has an equal chance to succeed, unhampered by those factors that in other nations perpetuate class, caste and regional differences. We are, as a friend often reminds me, a great country full of amazing people who often do amazing things.
What happened Wednesday is an abomination. More than that, it sullies the very democratic institutions and processes those who came to protest the counting of the Electoral College ballots in what they believe is a stolen election said they had come to protect. Spontaneous or not, the assault on the Capitol was an affront to us all, Democrats, Republicans and independents alike—no matter who committed it.
As has been argued by others, President Donald J. Trump bears considerable responsibility for this madness. He sent those people off on a mission believing they were patriots standing up against the culmination of a corrupt process that denied him a second term. That is not, however, an indictment of the nearly 75 million Americans who voted for him in November.
Those who broke the law should be sought out and, if apprehended, punished to the full extent allowable by law. Those who entered the Capitol to ransack it not only made a mockery of the majesty and ritual with which America’s legislative process is conducted, they proved the Founding Fathers to have been correct in every way in which they warned against the dangers of the mob.
There is a coarseness in politics today that, for some time, has debased our democratic system. James Madison warned that partisanship would be problematic. We can see now how prescient he was. Disagreement and dissent are now too often presented as dishonorable, especially by the people on the other side of any given disagreement. The plain fact is there’s plenty of blame to go around, and the mob that attacked the Capitol were no more “patriots” than the assassins of the two New York City police officers murdered in 2014 while sitting in their cruiser were “civil rights activists.”
Words are the way we are supposed to settle things—not violence. That’s what my mother and father taught me and, I presume, it’s what most of you who are reading this now were also taught in your formative years. The disputes we have over the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, whether grounded in reality or a fantasy-fueled attempt to hang onto power, cannot and will not be settled by brawling or attacking democratic symbols.
As a new administration comes into office, hopefully both Democrats and Republicans will adopt a calmer approach to settling differences. The persistence of our democratic republic is a tribute to the vision of the Founders and the living legacy of men like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Kennedy and Reagan—all of whom did so much to give it life. It is a tribute to them that our institutions and our democratic republic have not yet crumbled on account of the lesser lights who have been sometimes chosen to lead it.
However unfairly Mr. Trump was treated during his presidency, he must realize at some point that he brought many of these indignities upon himself. He chose to throw sharp elbows and should not have been surprised when they were thrown back. He could have left the presidency on a high note, confident he’d built a movement that would outlast him and that, in just four years, he’d successfully pushed policies leading to greater peace and prosperity (at least before COVID-19 hit). Ultimately, he surrendered to the lesser parts of our nature and seems, for the moment at least, to have destroyed any meaningful legacy he might have left.
First Dem-controlled gov't in a decade means fights over filibuster, court packing, socialist agenda
Victory in Georgia has guaranteed Democratic control of the White House and Congress, giving President-elect Joe Biden expanded options but also denying him cover from the demands of his party’s radical left wing.
Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff’s surprise double triumph on Tuesday makes possible many of Biden’s more expansive legislative priorities, such as his promised revisions to Obamacare or his $2 trillion climate plan. But it also means that he has lost the convenient excuse of a Republican-controlled Senate, which would have allowed him to refuse the more revolutionary changes endorsed by members of his party.
Instead, progressive groups are already agitating for proposals such as ending the Senate’s filibuster. Eli Zupnick, spokesman for the left-leaning Fix Our Senate, responded to the news of Warnock and Ossoff’s victory with bluntness: “What does this election mean? The filibuster is dead.”
Similar calls will soon emerge from other corners, pushing for court packing, the addition of new states, radical appointees, and the agenda of the House’s socialist “squad” caucus. Paradoxically, Biden’s victory in the Senate may have set up an even greater battle: not against Republicans, but across the ever-growing fault lines which divide his party.
As much is particularly true due to the razor-thin margin by which Democrats control government. They will hold the Senate only through the grace of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, while Republicans chipped away at their already narrow control of the House in the November election.
That margin will come into play over a likely contentious debate over the filibuster. Democrats’ sub-60-vote position means that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) can still stall much of Biden’s agenda, as he did in the latter days of the Obama administration. Recognizing this, soon-to-be majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has repeatedly signaled an openness to ending the practice.
In this, Schumer has been joined by progressive members of his caucus such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), as well as former president Barack Obama. But blue dog senators have been hostile: Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.), and Jon Tester (D., Mont.) are all opposed, while Sen. Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.) has dodged the question. So too has Warnock, while Ossoff offered only a “maybe” when asked.
Abolishing the filibuster would be a prerequisite for another major change Schumer has been eyeing—granting statehood to the District of Columbia and possibly Puerto Rico, guaranteeing two to four more Democrats in the upper chamber. But it would not be necessary to add further justices to the Supreme Court, a move many Democrats agitated for in the wake of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment. Biden has remained conspicuously silent on the issue of court packing, which would require his involvement but would see the ostensible moderate yielding to progressives over the majority of Americans.
Such major changes are not the only place Democratic control could be a headache for Biden. McConnell’s control of the Senate was expected to moderate Biden’s selection for top posts, and the president-elect has leaned toward the center in many of his taps.
But a Democrat-controlled Senate will allow more controversial choices, like the inflammatory OMB pick Neera Tanden, a serious hearing Biden may not have expected. And it could give new life to appointment priorities from the left, like the list of 100 foreign policy progressives that until Tuesday appeared dead on arrival.
A similar headache may await House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), as a smaller caucus gives more power to the growing “squad” of Democratic socialists in her chamber. A cadre of online progressives spent the days leading up to the vote for speaker agitating for Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), and others to withhold their votes unless Pelosi agreed to allow a vote on Medicare for All. Ocasio-Cortez shot down the idea but acknowledged it—indicating future pressure efforts may be more fruitful.
Pelosi, in other words, could experience a redux of the standoffs that defined the relationship between former speaker John Boehner and the House Freedom Caucus, which ended with Boehner’s resignation. Biden, similarly, risks his agenda being hijacked—not by obstreperous Republicans, as expected, but by members of his own party eager to seize power.
Americans are bandwagon people, jumping quickly from one opinion to another. Once we jump, we want to fire up the engines and go full speed ahead.
Now, in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, many want to impeach the president right now or use the 25th Amendment of the Constitution to remove him from office less than two weeks before his scheduled departure.
The fact is that our Founders designed an ocean liner government, not a speedboat. The government is intentionally designed not to take sudden turns or execute instant changes of course. The republic was constructed with all manner of filters, checks and balances, and separations of power, requiring time and deliberation to change course. Our Founders urged that we follow “the cool, deliberate sense of the community” over time, not the passions and factions of the moment.
Impeaching a president requires not just a vote of the House to impeach but a subsequent trial in the Senate. The most recent impeachment trial, of President Trump himself, took approximately three weeks to complete. At five weeks, former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial was even longer.
The notion that a president would be impeached, prepare, and stand for a full trial in less than two weeks (with both chambers on recess and out of town, no less) is simply not realistic. Our system was not built for that kind of speed. It was built for deliberation.
The use of the 25th Amendment is also problematic. It is really designed for a president who is disabled, not one we no longer trust. All three times it has been used involved medical procedures for former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
Like impeachment, it is also a complicated process that will take time, requiring first a declaration by the vice president, supported by the majority of the Cabinet, that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Does not liking or trusting how he is discharging them render him “unable”? I doubt it.
Then, the president could dispute the declaration, causing Congress to reconvene and decide the matter (requiring a two-thirds majority vote to find him “disabled”) within 21 days. By then, of course, Biden will be president.
Removing the president promptly, then, is highly unlikely through the push of a constitutional button. But there is another alternative, one that the Founders also contemplated: We will need statesmen and leaders to help guide us through the next two weeks.
We will need Vice President Mike Pence, who stood up and told the president he could not change the electoral vote, and who apparently also called for the National Guard to help quell the riots, to step up. It will mandate that members of Congress worry less about how they look to Trump’s political constituencies and care more about how they lead the republic. It will call for more from Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse and less from the intemperate Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz.
In our time, we think any problem should be fixed immediately, like that truck I saw hauling sod down the freeway with its sign reading, “Instant grassification.” But a democratic republic is a slow, careful, deliberative, sometimes messy business. However, it does respond to the voice of the people, more often through leadership than through structural processes.
We will be healthier in the long run if we survive the next two weeks through greater bipartisanship and leadership rather than through more Senate trials or divisive impeachment and 25th Amendment votes. Let the rational voices stirred by the mob this week, and the steadier leadership we have seen from some of our leaders, see us through.
It’s not only the best way. Given the limited time for the alternatives, it is the only way we will make it.
Biden courts disaster with retreads, culture warriors, and scandal
This is not a third Obama term.
—Joe Biden, November 24, 2020
He has a funny way of showing it. Biden’s recent moves provide little comfort for Americans looking for a way out of the polarization, acrimony, catastrophism, and hysteria that have characterized politics lo these many years.
Not only is Biden filling his administration with the same people who made such a hash of things from 2009 to 2017. He has also selected, for some of the most important offices, progressive ideologues who believe it is the bureaucracy’s job to pick new fights in the culture war. And he’s doing it all while his family and his party face new questions about their entanglement with the People’s Republic of China.
You are right to feel anxious.
Obama’s appointees were known for their elitism, imperiousness, and cocksure expertise. What does Biden do? He brings them back. John Kerry becomes a special envoy for climate—though if you assume he will restrict himself to that portfolio, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn you might like to buy. Janet Yellen gets Treasury—and a sure-to-be awkward relationship with her replacement as head of the Federal Reserve. Alejandro Mayorkas was deputy secretary of Homeland Security when he became ensnared in a visa scandal. Biden wants to promote him.
Jeffrey Zients salvaged Healthcare.gov from its catastrophic launch. He’ll be coronavirus czar. Having lied about both Benghazi and Bowe Bergdahl while coordinating national security, Susan Rice will apply her mendacious talents to domestic policy. Denis McDonough was Obama’s chief of staff during the Syrian “red line” debacle. He’ll be secretary for Veterans’ Affairs. A few officials—Vivek Murthy, Tom Vilsack—will be nominated for exactly the same jobs they held during the Obama years.
The cases where Biden has struck his own path are either strange or disturbing. Biden chose retired general Lloyd Austin, the former CENTCOM commander, for secretary of defense because “he played a crucial role in bringing 150,000 American troops home from the theater of war” and because he had a good relationship with Beau Biden. The selection, which requires a congressional waiver, not only raises the fraught subject of civil-military relations. It also guarantees a replay of the debate over America’s 2011 withdrawal from Iraq and the subsequent growth of the Islamic State. And it’s already created friction between Biden and members of his own party, as well as between Biden and members of the bipartisan foreign-policy elite who backed his candidacy.ADVERTISING
Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services was notorious for rules, such as the 2012 contraceptives mandate, that restricted religious freedom in ways calculated to benefit the Democratic Party. Our second Catholic president might try to reduce tensions between traditional believers and Washington, D.C., by appointing a nonpolitical HHS secretary with a directive to cope with the pandemic above all else. Instead, Biden picked Xavier Becerra, the far-left attorney general of California, who when not filing lawsuits against President Trump has targeted religious and pro-life organizations. The Becerra nomination is a rebuke to social conservatives. It puts the lie to Biden’s call for unity. Obama must love it.
What Obama can’t be happy about is Hunter Biden’s admission that the U.S. attorney for Delaware is looking into his taxes. The reality of Hunter Biden’s shady overseas business dealings, despite media and tech-sector attempts to suppress the information in the days before the election, can be avoided no longer. And Hunter’s revelation came during the week that Axios released a blockbuster report on Chinese infiltration into West Coast political circles, and disclosed that one Chinese spy became so close to Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell that the FBI gave him a defensive briefing about her in 2015. Swalwell will remain on the House Intelligence Committee. “When that was made known to the members of Congress, it was over,” said Nancy Pelosi.
Well, then. That settles it.
In truth, Biden’s denial that he would be the caretaker of Obama’s third administration was exaggerated. He made it in an interview with Lester Holt of NBC. His reasoning deserves a second look. “We face a totally different world than we faced in the Obama-Biden administration,” he said. “President Trump has changed the landscape.”
What will make his presidency novel, Biden revealed, is neither personnel nor approach. It’s circumstances. The world is “totally different.” Trump transformed politics, economics, diplomacy. Hence a Biden term will be unlike Obama’s simply because it’s four years later.
This is begging the question. Of course the world is different. It always is. But similar objects can inhabit varying landscapes. What matters is whether Biden will diverge from Obama in people, policy, and style. Not because he holds any animus toward the forty-fourth president. Because the success of his own presidency depends on it.
Biden may not think so. He shares Obama’s goals. He’d like to enjoy Obama’s popularity. He forgets that Obama’s good marks were personal. They never translated to the Democratic Party. As Obama pressed ahead with his agenda despite public ambivalence and hostility, his party lost one chamber of Congress, one governor’s mansion, one state legislature after another.
Deprived of allies in Congress, Obama relied on judicial and bureaucratic means to achieve his ends. But this approach enraged the Republican base while creating the widespread sense that the electorate no longer controlled its government. The result was Trump. Who promptly unwound Obama’s executive orders.
Biden seems eager to reboot this sordid drama. But he’s playing a weaker hand than Obama enjoyed at the outset. When the next Congress convenes in January, Democrats will have their smallest House majority since 1893. The best case scenario for Democrats is a 50-50 Senate. In 2009, Obama had a huge majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. He still couldn’t get everything he wanted.
Unusual staffing decisions, needless fights, the specter of corruption, the promise of gridlock—and inauguration is still over a month away. Biden gives us the same team and plans as his former boss, but with more awkward presentation and additional scandal. The third Obama term is on track to be as disappointing as the first two.
Ever since being declared president-elect, Joe Biden has been playing it cool. He’s refused to engage with President Donald J. Trump’s allegation that the outcome of the election turned on voter fraud. He’s left that job to surrogates while he focuses on building his White House staff, making key appointments and projecting the image that his approach to the office will be a calm and moderate one.
Now we know why. Thanks to leaks coming out of an online meeting held Tuesday with leaders of left-wing African-American groups, he’s afraid that a premature announcement of his progressive intentions would cost the Democrats any chance they have of winning the January 5 Georgia runoff elections that will determine which party controls the United States Senate for the next two years.
Biden warned, according to The Intercept, that “civil rights leaders that [put] pressure on the incoming administration around police reform could hurt the party’s chances in the Georgia Senate runoffs, claiming that the Republicans’ ability to define that party as in favor of defunding the police is ‘how they beat the living hell out of us across the country.'”
The former vice president told those on the call he’d prefer to wait, urging that no one be inclined to “get too far ahead of ourselves,” an observation he later tempered by reminding those he was addressing that, wrote The Intercept, “his commitment to police reform was unwavering.
So he’s got a plan, he just doesn’t want anyone outside his immediate circle to know just yet what it is—least of all voters in Georgia who, one presumes, might be inclined to vote against candidates who favor federal interference in local policing that leaves them less safe.
If that’s how things are inside Camp Biden, then the Democrats should be grateful the media and the public are still focused on Trump’s campaign to win in the courts and in the state legislatures what he was apparently denied by the voters. It’s a distraction that’s keeping anyone from asking what Biden might have up his sleeve that he can’t get through Congress unless Mitch McConnell is no longer the Senate majority leader.
Does Biden plan to offer a tax on carbon emissions that would drive up the price of gas at the pump and double or perhaps triple what Americans pay to heat and cool their homes? His national security team is committed to getting the U.S. back into the Paris climate accord—even though the United States has met, even exceeded the targets it set—while Janet Yellen, whom Biden wants as treasury secretary, is on record as favoring such levies.
What does Biden have planned that will satisfy the pro-abortion-rights activists and anti-gun people in his party’s coalition? He hasn’t said much, even about the things he’ll do on day one of his presidency. Is that because residents of Georgia, which is generally a conservative state, might react badly to his promised program, or because he doesn’t yet know—after almost 40 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president—what he’d like to do?
And more importantly, why is no one asking?
The stakes are clear. As Saul Anuzis, the former Michigan Republican Party chairman who now runs the conservative 60 Plus Association, told me, “Without Georgia, conservatives are at risk of losing everything they gained under Trump.” The list of things Biden has his eye on, as the former vice president said in Tuesday’s meeting, is long. He also faces the policies put in place over the last four years by executive orders which, he says, he’ll repeal.
That means a lot. “Conservatives shouldn’t underestimate the damage a politically motivated progressive left wing could do when the country is this polarized,” Anuzis said. “The outcome of the Georgia Senate races could determine the direction of this country for a generation to come.”
Team Biden knows this. It’s why it’s keeping quiet about so many things. But that strategy is dishonest. Biden has an agenda in mind, and he should be telling the American people what it is. Except he doesn’t want to be on the ballot on January 5 any more than he wanted to be on the ballot on November 3. He wanted the voters thinking only about whether they wanted four more years of Donald Trump.
One can argue he got his wish, that the presidential election was a referendum on the past four years rather than the next four. Biden wants voters thinking the same thing as they go to the polls in Georgia next month. But he can’t hide in his basement forever.
Pardon us if we are a little confused regarding the current status of the 2020 election results. We have been saying all along that we are dedicated to following the rule of law. Now, however, we are watching all levels of the Judiciary — who personify the law in the USA – rejecting what appears to many of us as highly suspicious behavior on the part of the vote counters. Some without even hearing the evidence of the plaintiff. These rejections are north of 60 cases, at all levels of the judiciary from Circuit courts to federal appellate courts.
What is going on? And where are the chief law enforcement organizations, the Justice Department and the FBI, who should be leading the investigations into allegations of monumental crimes of election fraud? Instead of leading the search for truth, they are nowhere to be found. Attorney General William Barr, thought to be a non-partisan pillar of integrity, ducks out of his responsibilities by saying that his department could find no crimes which would change the outcome of the election. This without citing any such investigatory efforts.
The only Judge showing enough true grit to hold the state officials to their oath of office is Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who is hot on the trail of the Pennsylvania mess. Of course, the end game of most of these lawsuits will be the actions of the Supreme Court as a whole when some of the current cases have traveled the gauntlet of judicial rejections in order to get standing for the high court to act.
So, here we are, days before the traditional certifications of the electoral college to begin, waiting to see what the Supreme Court will do. Will they accept the case(s) and issue a decision as in the case of Gore v Bush in 2001, or will they also decline to exercise their duty? If they do accept the case(s), what will their verdict be?
The very vastness of the suspected corruption is a challenge which gives everyone pause. What is being alleged is a conspiracy which touches nearly every state in the Union. A pattern of ballot tampering which has eerie similarities in nearly every suspicious state, which in turn strongly suggests central planning. The remedy may mean declaring the entire election null and void! Then what? Another election? Extension of the present terms while the new election is organized. For the first time in American history?
Alternatively, the selective decertification of certain votes among the many cast in person and by mail? Who would enforce strict behavior of the recount and the responsibilities of the poll watchers?
There are other issues as well, particularly the widespread use of the Dominion software (some 34 state users) which has been roundly criticized as an instrument of ballot tampering. A prohibition against use in an American election could cause an upheaval in the many states which relied on this technology to operate their balloting.
The other factor is, if the Supreme Court does accept one or more cases, how will they vote? Will the Chief Justice retain his posture of going with the wind as he has in some notable previous cases? Or will he be guided by the Constitution? What will be the effect of the new Justices on the rest of the Court, if any?
Yes, these are exciting times we live in. But also very confusing.
A coalition of conservative leaders has written a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), pointing out that since he had stated the need for investigating criminal wrongdoing by public officials, he should ask for former Vice President Biden’s bank records.
In December 2019, Neal, who had been calling for President Trump to release his tax returns, released eight years of tax records, saying that the move came “in the spirit of transparency, as the chair of the committee with jurisdiction over taxes.”
George Landrith, president of Frontiers of Freedom, Richard Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government, Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for Liberty, Seton Motley, president of Less Government, Horace Cooper, Co-Chairman Project 21, Saul Anuzis, president of 60 Plus, and Dick Patten, president of the American Business Defense Council, began their letter stating:
“Your recent comments about the need to investigate criminal wrongdoing by public officials and the importance of transparency to American government have not gone unnoticed. As you know, allegations of just such wrongdoing and the lack of transparency have arisen over the last two months based on emails found on a personal computer belonging to Hunter Biden — the son of Vice President Joseph Biden — a computer whose authenticity has been established by the FBI.”
After delineating alleged acts by former Vice President Biden, the letter continues, “We hope that you would welcome the chance to assist Vice President Biden in laying to rest any allegations that he was using his office and official travel to influence foreign governments or entities to benefit his son’s businesses. And to answer this question: Was any of that income received by Vice President Biden or other family members?”
A group of conservative activists and leaders is asking House Democrats who have pursued President Donald Trump’s tax returns to demand former Vice President Joe Biden’s bank records, given allegations of overseas business entanglements.
The Hunter Biden laptop story in October revealed that Joe Biden had discussed his family’s foreign business entanglements, despite earlier denials, and that he explored a business venture with a Chinese company in which he was to have held 10% of equity.
House Democrats have tried for years to obtain Trump’s tax returns, going to the Supreme Court in their effort to do so, though they have not had evidence of any crimes or conflicts of interest, but insisting on the need for transparency.
In a press release Tuesday, several conservative leaders released a letter they had sent to House Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), in which they argued Biden’s bank records were of equal public value:
Your recent comments about the need to investigate criminal wrongdoing by public officials and the importance of transparency to American government have not gone unnoticed.
As you know, allegations of just such wrongdoing and the lack of transparency have arisen over the last two months based on emails found on a personal computer belonging to Hunter Biden — the son of Vice President Joseph Biden — a computer whose authenticity has been established by the FBI.
As you also know, public record has established beyond doubt that vice President Biden repeatedly took his son on official trips to foreign nations and that soon after such trips his son’s companies we’re receiving millions in contracts from government related entities in those nations. Additionally, it is also public record that when one of those companies came under investigation for corrupt practices by a foreign government vice president Biden intervened and forced that government to shut down the corruption probe and fire the prosecutor by threatening to deny the country and its people US foreign aid. This, as you know, is indisputable since Vice President Biden openly boasted on camera about his effectiveness in getting the corruption prosecutor fired.
Now, however, graver questions have arisen about the suspect activities of the vice president and his son. Disclosure of the emails from Hunter Biden’s computer show him speaking openly about paying out money to the rest of the family including his father who was apparently referred to — and these are just two examples— as “the big guy” or someone entitled to his ten percent.
Already, of course, Vice President Biden has a serious credibility problem on this issue, having said flatly that he never discussed such business matters with his son. Evidence from the computer emails as well as testimony from one of his son’s former business colleagues who attended meetings with Vice President Biden show his emphatic denial is now one of the boldest falsehoods ever told an American public life.
In any case, we hope that you would welcome the chance to assist Vice President Biden in laying to rest any allegations that he was using his office and official travel to influence foreign governments or entities to benefit his son’s businesses. And to answer this question: Was any of that income received by Vice President Biden or other family members?
Thus, we hope that in view of your strong demand for transparency and disclosure you will endorse our suggestion that your committee ask for vice President Biden’s bank records and those of the rest of his family over the period of his vice presidency and immediately thereafter. In this way he can put to rest any allegations including concerns about how he acquired his extensive personal wealth and his large estate.
If members of the committee from both sides as well as their legal counsel could be permitted to examine the records and then report to the Congress this would do much to clear the air. Moreover, if you took this initiative as a member of the Democratic House leadership this would do much to show that your interest in full disclosure and investigating corruption extends to members of your own party.
As you know, when these allegations arose during the presidential campaign, media organizations – some of whom still claim they are serious news organizations – rushed to protect Vice President Joe Biden who was their chosen candidate by imposing a news blackout on this information.
But that won’t last now – the public is going to want to know the truth. This is your chance to serve the cause of integrity and transparency in public office as you’ve talked so much about the past few years.
The American people have a right to this information and we are hopeful that you and the Vice President will see the advantage of the full disclosure suggested by our proposal before demands for a special counsel become deafening.
The letter is co-signed by George Landrith, president of Frontiers of Freedom; Richard Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government; Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for Liberty; Seton Motley, president of Less Government; Horace Cooper, co-chairman of Project 21; Saul Anuzis, president of 60 Plus; and Dick Patten, president of the American Business Defense Council.
The president has completed all required financial disclosure forms, declining to release tax returns while under audit. A New York Times article this fall describing his tax returns confirmed he has been under audit by the IRS in a long-running dispute.
It’s not Trump supporters who are living in a fantasyland, but members of the corporate media who sense their power and influence waning.
With the end of Donald Trump’s presidency fast approaching, we’ve seen a surge of columns and posts asserting that Republicans and Trump supporters have lost touch with reality. After four years of marinating in “falsehoods” and “disinformation”—a term that really just means “information I don’t like”—Trump’s backers are all turned around, we’re told. They believe much that isn’t so.
David Brooks of The New York Times explains that these poor saps, most of whom, he says, are uneducated, uncredentialed people who don’t live in prosperous cities, have retreated to conspiracy theories to explain their misfortune and unhappiness. “People in this precarious state are going to demand stories that will both explain their distrust back to them and also enclose them within a safe community of believers,” he writes. Trump, QAnon, and Alex Jones “rose up to give them those stories and provide that community.”
Over at The New Yorker, editor David Remnick ponders the grave costs of Trump’s “assault on the press and the truth,” asking how many COVID-19 victims “died because they chose to believe the President’s dismissive accounts of the disease rather than what public-health officials were telling the press? Half of Republican voters believe Trump’s charge that the 2020 election was ‘rigged.’ What will be the lasting effects on American democracy of that disinformation campaign?”
These are just representative samples, but across the mainstream commentariat the gist is all the same: if you support Trump, you’re likely a poor person who believes conspiracy theories and is dangerously disconnected from reality, partly because you resent successful people like Messrs. Brooks and Remnick. You live in a fantasyland because it assuages your feelings of inferiority, which are mostly justified. You’re paranoid because you’re powerless, and the alternate reality you’ve constructed for yourself gives you a sense of power and agency in a confusing, unsettled world.
But here’s the thing. Everything these media elites say about Trump supporters can more properly be said about media elites themselves. Who really has been living in a fantasyland these last four years? Is it the ordinary Americans—including a lot of educated, white-collar professionals—who voted for a president they felt would shake up the sclerotic status quo in Washington, or a press corps that perpetuated an actual conspiracy about Trump-Russia collusion for years?
It was Remnick’s New Yorker, after all, that published a serious-seeming essay in September 2018 that claimed Facebook had been weaponized by “Russian agents who wanted to sow political chaos and help Trump win” in the 2016 election—an effort, the author said, that had an “astonishing impact.” Never mind the preposterousness of claiming that a couple hundred thousand dollars in Facebook advertising had an “astonishing impact” on the outcome of the 2016 election, there has never been a shred of evidence that “Russian interference” changed or altered even a single vote in 2016.
A New Yorker staff writer named Evan Osnos wrote that article. Osnos won the National Book Award in 2014 and in 2015 was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He’s won many other prizes and worked all over the world, and, just before the election, published a flattering book about former Vice President Joe Biden. Osnos is the sort of fellow Brooks has in mind when he talks about “professional members” of the “epistemic regime”—the people who know what’s real and tell us so, a job for which they are richly rewarded.
What else has this supposedly enlightened member of the epistemic elite told us? In June, he compared Trump’s White House, which had a temporary fence around it after Black Lives Matter protests turned into riots, to the Zhongnanhai, the seat of China’s communist government in Beijing, where “people are more accustomed than Americans are to the notion of leaders who live and work secluded from the public.”
Earlier that month, Osnos dashed off a post that described—falsely, as it turned out—protests in Lafayette Square on June 1 as “peaceful.” We all know, even if the media refused to report it, that the protesters were not at all peaceful, and in fact were hurling “bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids” at police.
This isn’t really about Osnos, his hackery notwithstanding, but about his professional class—a class that fervently believes much that isn’t so. Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, members of Osnos’ class still believe that Trump got substantial help from Russia in 2016. They believe, still, that Trump is a dangerous authoritarian who might just destroy the republic. They believe, still, that the only reason tens of millions of Americans would support Trump is that they are racists or rubes, or both.
Osnos and Remnick and the rest of our media elites believe these things for the same reason Brooks thinks Trump supporters are conspiracy theory-addled suckers: they are becoming irrelevant, they are losing power and influence, their status as members of the epistemic regime is uncertain—indeed, their entire regime seems to be collapsing, and they know it.
It’s not too much to say, quoting Brooks, that “people in this precarious state are going to demand stories that will both explain their distrust back to them and also enclose them within a safe community of believers.”
So we will continue to see stories and commentary from the epistemic regime that soothe men like Brooks, Remnick, and Osnos, assuring them all is well, that credulous, mendacious Trump supporters have been put in their place, and that after a harrowing four years, all is once again as it should be.
If news writers had any integrity, the headlines following the 2020 election would have read like the one on this column. Instead, the media gods who helped put Joe Biden over the top expound on why Donald Trump‘s protests are without merit and just another example of Republican sore-loserism.
The former vice president’s apparent margin of victory is not all that large. At the time this was written it was about 6 million votes out of about 150 million cast. That works out to about 4 percent and could, depending on recounts, slip lower.
In the states that appear to be making the difference—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin—Biden’s lead is extremely narrow, much as Trump’s was when he defeated former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton to win the White House in the first place. It’s hard to argue the man most of the media anointed the new American chief executive before all the votes were cast has a mandate to do much of anything.
Nonetheless, if he eventually becomes president, the calls for him to act swiftly and decisively will be frequent, loud, and—from his point of view—problematic. In the Thursday, November 19 edition of The Wall Street Journal author and political cartoonist Ted Rall argues forcefully that, without the support of progressives who held their nose and voted for him anyway, Biden wouldn’t be going back to Washington and instead would be headed back to Delaware.
Progressives who would have preferred Vermont senator Bernie Sanders may have pushed Biden past Trump in the popular vote and in the states that will determine the outcome in the electoral college, but on almost every other measure they were defeated. By a small majority, the nation indicated it may not want four more years of Trump, but it’s clearly repudiated the progressive agenda.
The GOP may have lost seats in the U.S. Senate but it’s most likely maintained control. The outcome hangs on two runoffs in Georgia—both of which the Republicans are favored to win—unless an audit of the votes pushes incumbent GOP senator David Perdue back up over 50 percent of the vote, where he was for most of election night. Right now, he’s at 49.71 percent, and the 0.3 percent he needs to avoid a runoff might be overcome just by the uncounted votes being discovered across the state.
The Republicans were also projected to lose seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Instead, they won all the top targeted races, lost no incumbents seeking reelection, and gained enough seats not only to get above 200—a crucial barrier in the battle for the majority—but to put Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s ability to control events on the floor in doubt. Enough moderate Democrats are saying privately (and thanks to some propitious leaks, publicly) that they’re not willing to walk the plank for her and the “The Squad” is in for a rough going.
Looking around the country, the Republicans picked up one governorship in 2020 (Montana) and the New Hampshire state legislature. This gives the GOP the prized “trifecta” in each state which, when added to the dozens they already had, means that while Washington is gridlocked the GOP can use states to pass the reforms they’ll take national the next time they have the White House.
At the same time the Democrats, who enlisted the substantial fundraising support of former president Barack Obama and former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder in an attempt to flip legislative chambers to Democratic control, failed everywhere they tried. They may have spent tens of millions or more in pursuit of this goal with nothing to show for it. Contrary to late predictions, the GOP held on to state legislatures in Texas and Arizona comfortably when the battle for control was expected to be a close-run thing. And they held the legislatures in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and enough other key states that predictions are already being made that, based solely on the upcoming reapportionment of U.S. House seats among the states, the Republicans are headed to a decade-long majority. No wonder Mrs. Pelosi is saying this is her last term as speaker.
Even at the lawmaking level, progressivism was crushed. Voters in California, who went for Biden over Trump by about two to one, rejected an effort to repeal the 1996 Proposition 209 that prohibits the state from considering race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in public employment, education and contracting. At the same, in progressive Colorado, voters said “Yes” to a cut in the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.55 percent. In Illinois, voters rejected a measure to establish a graduated income tax and in Montana voters limited the ability of local governments to interfere with issuing of “concealed carry” firearms permits.
If there’s one takeaway from the 2020 election, it’s that, despite the aggressive support it received from donors, elected officials, candidates for office and the mainstream media, progressivism is on the decline. Heck, Joe “I am the Democratic Party” Biden even rejected it while debating Donald Trump. The course is set and if the new president—whoever it is—is smart enough to follow it then the sailing should be smooth. If not, it’s stormy weather ahead.
It’s not enough to kick conservatives off of Twitter. Narrative control is the goal. Any alternative, any other avenue of ‘freer’ speech, must be shut down.
The dominant Big Tech companies’ power to control the access and availability of information was unmasked during the Donald Trump presidency. The full extent and intent of that power has been further exposed in the 2020 election.
From Facebook, to Google, to Twitter, it is now clear that these companies have every intention of using the unprecedented control they have amassed, not to facilitate a diversity of speech and viewpoints, but to shape national narratives in the direction they prefer. Users—even those who are elected—will comply, or be banned.
Twitter, in particular, has shed any pretense of being a platform interested in facilitating free expression. In 2011, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo characterized Twitter as “the free speech wing of the free speech party.” The sentiment was echoed a year later by Tony Wang, general manager at Twitter UK, who claimed the company’s founding principles compelled it to remain “neutral” about the content its users posted.
Nearly a decade later, those sentiments have flipped. Twitter has spent the Trump years aggressing against the president, placing his tweets behind filters, blocking his press secretary, and censoring his Senate-confirmed advisors.
The platform aggressively ran interference for the Joe Biden campaign, refusing to allow a New York Post story detailing corruption in the Biden family from circulating on its platform. Users were prohibited for weeks from sharing the story, and their accounts were locked if they did.
Even the use of direct messages—Twitter’s supposedly private communication tool—was screened and filtered for wrong-think. That practice has continued outside of sharing the Hunter Biden story, casting doubt on Twitter’s claim that the company doesn’t read your direct messages. It is clear that, at least in some capacity, they do.
All of this was under the guise of preventing “misinformation” from spreading on Twitter—that, presumably, could inform voter behavior. This made it all the more bizarre when Twitter’s deeply weird CEO, Jack Dorsey, claimed while under oath to the Senate Commerce Committee that the platform has no ability to influence election outcomes.
Sen. Ted Cruz, who had asked Dorsey the question, appeared almost caught off-guard by the absurdity of the claim. Cruz responded with the obvious follow-up. If you can’t influence election outcomes, he said, then why do you moderate political content at all?
But Twitter does moderate political content, and they very clearly do so in one direction. In the wake of the election, under the guise of moderating for “misinformation” and “fomenting violence,” the platform has banned the bombastic former Trump advisor Steve Bannon for stating that he’d like to see Dr. Anthony Fauci’s “head on a pike,” while happily allowing comedian Kathy Griffin to re-post her notorious photo of a beheaded Trump.
Richard Baris, one of the few pollsters who was right about the 2020 election results, had his account blocked for tweeting his findings about voter fraud. And not just his account, but that of his business, his newsletter, and his wife. There was “no reason given,” he said in a post on Parler, where he had just opened an account.
Parler, which has grown in popularity among conservatives as a Twitter alternative, is predictably being labeled as “a threat to democracy” by CNN. It’s not enough to kick conservatives off of Twitter. Narrative control is the goal. Any alternative, any other avenue of “freer” speech, must be shut down.
Defenders of the social media platforms often do so in a vacuum. They defend Twitter’s content moderation as a private company expressing its First Amendment rights. Not only does this argument ignore that Twitter, like Facebook and Google, exercises its First Amendment rights in a privileged manner, it intentionally sidesteps the consequences Twitter’s actions have on Americans’ ability to consume news, think for themselves, and express their views away from Twitter.
Social media platforms are no longer merely independent actors, facilitating information sharing and viewpoints. Increasingly, they inform the news. Although it has a far smaller market share than Facebook and Google, Twitter has the most news-focused users and a much broader share of continuous, minute-by-minute engagement by news outlets, media elites, elected officials, and public policy intellectuals. Their engagement with the platform drives, and very much determines, news coverage.
“Though Twitter may not be a huge overall source of traffic to news websites relative to Facebook and Google, it serves a unique place in the link economy,” said a report by Nieman Labs in 2016. “News really does ‘start’ on Twitter.”
Recall the absurd story in 2017 that Trump killed an entire pond of koi fish while on an official visit in Japan. Multiple news outlets breathlessly covered the story, speculating wildly about the fish and mocking Trump. That story, which was false, began with tweets—not filed stories—from news outlets and reporters. The tweets then directedcoverage on multiple outlets.
Tucker Carlson, who has the most-watched cable news show in the country, spent the summer covering the violent elements of the Black Lives Matter protests in ways that every other network refused to do. Much of the coverage he aired on his show came from videos posted to Twitter by reporters on the ground, outside of the mainstream networks.
Earlier this month, Axios reported that newsrooms are planning “to invest more heavily in coverage of social media and internet trends as a way to observe political sentiment from a wider group of people.”
Twitter does far less to facilitate the news than it does to make it. Thus its content moderation decisions have ramifications far beyond Twitter. They echo down the corridors of what makes news in America, and who is allowed to do it, and what ordinary Americans are allowed to say about it. This means Twitter plays an outsized role in creating, gatekeeping, and sustaining the national narrative.
Twitter’s offline consequences extend beyond its manipulation of the news narrative, as Twitter is increasingly the woke mob’s favorite venue of cancellation.
Late last week, a Twitter user with minimal followers complaint-tweeted at Target because it sold a book by Abigail Shrier questioning the wisdom of promoting irreversible transgender surgery and hormone therapy for children. Target subsequently banned the book, although it was later reinstated after public outcry.The platform’s role in the viral nature of cancel culture belies the notion that these are merely ‘private platforms’ with no larger effects.
The Lincoln Project tweeted the images of two attorneys working for the Trump campaign, their emails, phone numbers, and photos alongside the phrase “make them famous.” Twitter allowed the tweet to circulate on its platform for hours before it was finally removed.
Twitter does not drive these cancellation decisions as a matter of policy, but the platform’s role in the viral nature of cancel culture belies the notion that these are merely “private platforms” with no larger effects on free speech, free thought, and free behavior in America.
They also raise troubling questions about how that role will evolve. As the left continues to push for a social credit system—that is, say or suggest wrongthink, get banned from polite society—what role will social media play as the reporting Stasi arm of the woke mob?
Big Tech has grown from a handful of Silicon Valley startups to a handful of the most powerful companies in the world, exercising unprecedented control over minds, markets, behavior, and independent thought. They are changing how we live together.
How we choose to deal with them, politically, is less a binary question of “regulation” or “government interference in business” than it is, truly, a question of the social order; of who sets the terms of social engagement. Is it a free people, speaking through their rights and representative government, or a set of corporations weaponized by an illiberal woke agenda controlling our news narrative, information gathering, and social and cultural compliance?