A win is a win, though few should be proud about how Joe Biden got there. Here’s how it happened.
The media, Deep State, big tech, and pollsters shamelessly did everything they could for four years to sway the vote—opening Brett Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook while closing Hunter Biden’s laptop faster than you could say Anthony Weiner, weaponizing anonymous sources to gossip on the front page, accepting the FBI and CIA deep in the political process (to the point of falsifying FISA applications to spy on American citizens), showcasing performance journalism like the Cuomos, Jim Acosta, and Yamiche Alcindor, and using social media to edit the public agenda.
The big takeaway is how well it was all coordinated this time; no Jim Comey tossing an investigative monkey wrench into the campaign at the last minute. It worked like this: something regularly leaked from inside the Deep State. Anonymous sources spoke to CNN, WaPo, or NYT, whomever didn’t service the initial dead drop, “confirming” the leak. Blue Check Twitter fluffed the story so the MSM could run reaction pieces. Paul Krugman wrongly predicted an economic collapse six times. Proof that it wasn’t just bad journalism? How many times did the MSM get caught lying in a way favorable to Trump?
And where were the Russians, Chinese, and Iranian hackers? What happened to armed militias at polling places, the boogaloo? Given one of the highest turnouts in history, where was the voter suppression, the white supremacist gerrymandering in places like Georgia? Those politically orchestrated delays at the Post Office delivered truckloads of decisive Biden ballots.
The pollsters transitioned to political operatives loading voters on the bandwagon. You can imagine smart guys are actually dumb (one major poll had Biden ahead in Wisconsin by 17 points, another predicted Biden by four points in Florida) and hide behind “a massive failure of polling” again, or you can see that it was part of a larger plan.
The narratives were all wrong, but they were never meant to be right. The whole thing was so well organized Joe literally did not have to campaign. Black ops, Mr. Garrison. Don’t ask what, ask why, ask who benefits?
The real surprise is that it all mattered about as much as the Russians did in 2016. The much-celebrated state flips involved tiny margins. Democrats spent more than $315 million to decisively lose six Senate races. They also failed to generate a Blue Wave downballot at the statehouses. The races designed to smite Trump enablers Mitch McConnell, Susan Collins, and Lindsey Graham did not. The Lincoln Project’s frat-boy mockery changed nothing as Trump won a bigger share of Republican voters than in 2016.
That as uneventful a candidate as Joe Biden ever got as far as a tie, never mind a win, was in the end as much about luck as anything. The election was a referendum on Trump, and the goal all along was to create a Not-Trump narrative that stuck. Many were tried.
Trump as a Russian agent collapsed on lack of evidence, not on lack of effort. The consolation prize to the Dem base, which thanks to midterm gains actually made it to formal impeachment, had little substance behind it. Both ended with Nancy Pelosi as Wile E. Coyote suspended in midair as the cliff fell away. Meep meep!
Also tried was Orange Man Bad (bad racist, bad misogynist, bad white supremacist) repudiated by 66 million American voters. Trump won more minority votes, 26 percent, than any Republican in 60 years. Exit polls showed Trump’s support rose among women. Actual black voters, it turns out, are not the same as BLM marchers. Some 17 percent of black men voted for Trump, up from 13 percent in 2016. Support among black women doubled. Latin support rose and won Florida. The 2020 electorate was overall more conservative than in 2016. Trump put together one of the most diverse collections of Republican voters in years.
Those voters may have liked Orange Man naming three Supreme Court justices, facilitating more Middle East peace treaties and fewer wars, and pre-Covid, growing the economy. They may not all own stocks, but the people who employ them do, and the market roared. Even The Economist admitted “Growth never quite reached the lustrous annual rate of four percent he promised, but it did do better than many had forecast, and his tax cut in 2017 turned out to be a well-timed fiscal stimulus. At the end of last year unemployment was at its lowest level for half a century. The wages of the less well paid were rising swiftly.”
There’s irony in knowing the word “influenza” comes from the Italian word for “influence.” Absent COVID, this election would have likely been a Trump blowout. But that narrative did stick, and Dems owe their success to creating a radically misleading version of the pandemic, dovetailing perfectly with H.L. Mencken’s advice “the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins.” Exit polls are clear: voters had the pandemic and its economic effects on their minds. How that translated in the vote was somewhere between mass paranoia (someone has to be to blamed!) as when witches were burned following natural disasters, and crude politicization of tragedy.
The narrative evolved. At first “flatten the curve” was about reducing hospitalizations so as to not overload the system. Somehow, a metric that would go down got replaced with dramatic case numbers which forever went up, even as the danger of becoming a “case” decreased.
Despite evidence from Europe and Asia of tactical steps proving effective (anyone still alive in Sweden?) Democratic governors raced into broad lockdowns to press votes toward Biden by ramping up fear. Reality was an inconvenience, for, like the Russians, the mass graves and two million dead never appeared. The tens of thousands of ventilators and hospital ships were never needed. Everyone in unmasked Florida did not die.
Instead, lockdowns became punitive, not palliative. Democratic leaders sacrificed their economies to ensure that a sense of crisis, which hurt Trump, prevailed. The only other explanation is leaders in California and New York were too dumb to imagine what might happen if they drove away commerce, businesses, residents, and with them, their tax base. Conspiracy theory? Explain the disparity in response between Dem and Republican run states. In return, NY Governor Cuomo is already asking Biden for an $8 billion downpayment to bring his state back to life.
The real con was that while devastating political decisions were made at the state level, blame was leveled at Trump. The meme was established early, even before anyone was the Dem nominee, when, in February, the NYT sent up a Bat Signal titled “Let’s Call It Trumpvirus” (subtlety is not required.)
A Columbia University report claimed a better Trump response could have avoided up to 210,000 deaths, something like a 90 percent reduction. Deeper reading shows the claim is based only on a hazy statistical model of population and deaths in several countries. Left out of the mix is how those European and Asian countries do not suffer America’s fractured healthcare system and immense social disparities. Poorer base health equals more COVID deaths. The U.S. also lacked those places’ central authority to nationally require masks, quarantines, open or closed schools, etc. Nonetheless, the “excess” American deaths were blamed on “politicization, leadership vacuum, and the failure of top officials to model best practices.”
That tracked well with the original campaign meme of Trump vs. COVID. Things reached peak fear mongering when Trump was accused of personally killing Americans via his super-spreader event rallies. The plan was on election day to tally up the deaths with whomever was the Democratic candidate as a slightly interested bystander.
The problem is that the meme shifted from “Trump is the problem” to “Biden is the solution”, as strategists searched for something for Biden to stand for. So the expectation now is that Biden will end politicization, fill the leadership vacuum, and model best practices to tidy things up. We will all be part of a mega-reveal of how much of the crisis was exaggerated. Watch for some magic improvements as COVID loses its political usefulness.
The forces which created the narrative will have gifted Biden a lousy starting position. He’ll need the luck of a long tailed cat stuck in a room full of rocking chairs. As Biden learned when he and Obama took over the Bush financial mess in 2008, the American people will only grant a brief pass before it becomes your crisis.
Then come the real costs of the Democratic strategy — vast economic damage to major cities via the diaspora of workers, millions fewer people working at all, whole industries such as the airlines in ruin, a lost generation of students, all alongside rising hunger and poverty.
And if any of that seems like a good thing, the lesser of two evils, the way you want to choose your government, message me. I hear The Lincoln Project is looking for interns for the midterms ahead.
Peter Van Buren, a 24-year State Department veteran, is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.
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