No sooner had the networks called the Virginia governor’s race, than the pundits went to work dissecting the stinking, bloated corpse that was Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s election bid. The main culprit, according to many pundits, was wokeness. Democrats are too woke. They need to stop talking about institutional racism. They need to clam up about homophobia. They need to shut down the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements. Climate Change? Get over it.
Many moderate democrats were also on board with placing the blame on the W-word. “What went wrong is just stupid wokeness,” said political strategist James Carvell.
But progressives weren’t so sure wokeness was to blame. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested the results show the limits of trying to run a super moderate campaign that does not “excite, speak to or energize a progressive base.”
Wokeness aside, what this election proved beyond a doubt is that lying is a winning election strategy—at least for the GOP.
The big takeway of the Virginia governor’s race election was that it pays to create nonexistent boogeyman to scare the bejeezes out of the American middle class, whether that boogeyman be Critical Race Theory; transgender students raping girls in school bathrooms; violent, COVID-infected immigrants; or killervaccines. Republicans will want to continue to crank out the lies about voter fraud, stolen elections, and the Black Lives Matter movement. And don’t forget to repeat ad nauseum the absurd lies that it was Antifa who stormed the U.S. Capitol, and that pornography is being forced down the throats of public school students.
Obviously politicians have lied as long as there have been elections, but never before has lying been such a winning campaign strategy as in the era of Donald Trump. Trump, the author of The Big Lie, showed Republicans that it is acceptable to lie in the service of politics. (As the Washington Post put it, in its typical wishy washy way: “By the end of his term, Trump had accumulated 30,573 untruths during his presidency — averaging about 21 erroneous claims a day.”)
And Trump’s lies worked. The lies about Trump building a wall and making Mexico pay for it, the lies about Mexican rapists flooding into the U.S., and the lies about the media being the enemy of the people, all got him elected, and the lies have kept his base hyper-energized.
That Trump narrowly lost the White House in 2020 does not mean that the American people punished him for being a serial liar; rather it meant half the nation–the half that still values democracy–feared that Democracy in America was up against the ropes and another four years of Trump would be the knockout blow.
Meanwhile, conservative media continues to preach that lying is the magic formula for winning the midterms and retaking the White House in 2022. Your state doesn’t teach critical race theory in your public grade schools? No matter. Lie and say it does. After all, it is totally acceptable to lie for a greater purpose, like overturning ObamaCare and taking away people’s health care. Just like it was okay for conservative Christians to vote for Trump, a non-religious, thrice-married, Russia-loving, porn-star humping, pussy-grabbing, billionaire con man.
So how should Democrats, and those Americans who care about saving Democracy, counter these lies?
Sadly, they can’t. For five years Democrats, the media, anyone with a brain have shouted to the rooftops that Trump and the GOP are lying, lying about everything, and it hasn’t made one bit of difference. Today, 1 in 3 Americans believe that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election because of voter fraud.
If anything, the GOP is getting better at lying, as demonstrated in the Virginia governor’s race. They have found a winning formula that jazzes up their base. That base evidently loves being lied to, as long as those lies make their enemies look bad and help them gain power. There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that the base knows these lies are in fact lies, but that they don’t care. After all, the point isn’t truthfulness, it’s gaining power. By any means necessary.
For the moment, anyway, lying just happens to be the most effective way to do that.