Election experts have observed that a heavy dose of congressional redistricting after the 2010 elections has polarized the nation and given Republicans an advantage in elections for years to come, but the practice's impact on election outcomes was all but ignored during the major cable news outlets' 2014 election night broadcasts.
Republican pollster and CBS News political analyst Frank Luntz wrote in a New York Times op-ed that in the wake of the 2014 elections Republicans and Democrats should work together to pass "common-sense solutions." But Luntz's call for bipartisanship is absurd considering his reported responsibility for some of the partisan gridlock he is currently lamenting. On the night of President Obama's first inauguration, Luntz reportedly convened a meeting of GOP leaders to discuss how they could obstruct the president's agenda in order to win future elections.
In a November 6 op-ed, Luntz warned Republicans to "stop blustering and fighting" and urged the parties to work together because Americans want "progress" and "don't care about Democratic solutions or Republican solutions":
Americans despair of the pointless posturing, empty promises and bad policies that result. Show that you are more concerned with people than politics. Don't be afraid to work with your opponents if it means achieving real results. Democrats and Republicans disagree on a lot, but there are also opportunities of real national importance, like national security and passing the trans-Atlantic trade deal.
Aside from a small activist constituency, Americans are not looking for another fight over same-sex marriage or abortion. This isn't to say that voters want their leaders to co-opt their convictions. People are simply tired of identity politics that pit men against women, black against white, wealthy against poor. More than ever, they want leadership that brings us together.
This isn't about pride of ownership regarding American progress; this is about progress, period. Americans don't care about Democratic solutions or Republican solutions. They just want common-sense solutions that make everyday life just a little bit easier. But they can't get their houses in order until Washington gets its own house in order.
From the November 5 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
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Right-wing media reacted with disbelief and outrage at President Obama's post-election speech, in which he said he intends to cooperate with Republicans -- despite Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell making the same claim earlier the same day.
Fox News celebrated historic Republican victories in the midterm elections by applauding the party for answering calls for diversity, a celebration that overlooks GOP policies that harm women and minorities, policies the network has relentlessly advocated.
Republicans made history in Tuesday's midterm elections, electing a handful of younger and more diverse candidates to Congress. Mia Love became the first black Republican woman elected to Congress, and Tim Scott from South Carolina became the first black man elected to the Senate in the south since Reconstruction. Republicans Joni Ernst and Shelley Moore Capito became the first women to represent their states in the Senate.
The next day, Fox News pointed to these midterm victories as evidence that Republican policies are not harmful to women and minorities. On America's Newsroom, anchor Martha MacCallum wondered, "So what does this mean -- the election of a lot of women last night -- in terms of the war on women that we heard so much about in the last presidential election?" She asked whether these wins mean "that whole discussion is no longer relevant." Later on Outnumbered, Andrea Tantaros applauded Republicans, saying the GOP has "finally responded to the call that they need diversity."
Fox does not have a history of treating diversity as a virtue. Only days ago, Fox hosts advocated for an "older white guy appreciation day" and claimed that "the white Republican power structure is afraid of black Americans." This is the same network that has discouraged women from voting, denied the existence of gender pay inequality and white privilege, and argued that there has to be a downside to a woman president (such as women being too preoccupied with other things to run for office).
And although these Republican gains in diversity are a step in the right direction, they don't negate GOP policies that are harmful to women and minorities -- policies for which Fox has relentlessly advocated.
While Republican leaders are saying their party should focus on governing and working with President Obama, conservative media figures are pushing the GOP to use its gains in Congress to push a right-wing agenda, avoid compromise, and continue to obstruct the president.
Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes has reportedly contacted Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich about his interest in returning to the conservative network as a guest host.
Kasich is one of the most successful Fox News candidates. He joined the network in 2001 as a former congressman and left in 2009 to successfully run for governor. Kasich was a frequent guest host for The O'Reilly Factor and the host of the programs From The Heartland and Heroes.
Fox News hosted Kasich on November 4 after he won his reelection campaign. Co-anchor Megyn Kelly told Kasich that it "wasn't that long ago that you were here at the Fox News Channel. Everyone loved you. Now you go to Ohio. The people love you. Are you going to make a pitch on a national level and hope they love you and put you in the White House?"
Kasich dodged by the question by responding that "what I'm really bucking for in the short term is to wonder if I can come back and host O'Reilly again at least once or twice. It would be a lot of fun. I don't think they've ever had a sitting governor do that."
Kelly replied: "I think you're one of the few people he actually would allow to take over that show. I'll ask him."
From the November 5 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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According to Vox, Fox News "broke the rules for exit polls" in its live coverage of election results, when anchor Martha MacCallum reported on the breakdown of how Independents voted in the New Hampshire Senate race.
Vox argued that Fox's decision to do so ran counter to a binding agreement not to leak results until the polls have closed.
Just after 6 p.m., MacCallum reported that Republican Senate candidate and former Fox News employee Scott Brown needs Independents to vote for him and highlighted exit poll results showing that 50 percent of Independents voted for Brown, while 49 percent voted for incumbent Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
Here's Vox's explanation as to how Fox violated standards on exit polling: (emphasis original)
The media outlets running the exit poll want to be able to describe who's voting, and who they're voting for, to the public as early as possible. But they don't want to have any influence on who ends up voting -- they don't want anyone deciding not to vote because they've already seen what the exit polls say, and they don't think their vote will matter. (There's some evidence that this happened back in 1980, when some outlets projected that Ronald Reagan would win the presidential election before polls closed on the West Coast.)
In some countries, like the United Kingdom, it's actually illegal for any media outlet to report exit poll results before the polls close. In the US, it's not illegal, but there's a binding agreement among the media outlets that run the exit poll that none of them is allowed to leak any results before the polls have closed.
Fox News has actively promoted Brown's campaign for months. During the past weekend, Fox re-aired a documentary about health care reform in New Hampshire that promoted him. The morning of the election, Fox tried to undercut Brown's opponent with a last-minute bogus conspiracy theory that Shaheen "was involved in [an] IRS scandal." Brown's campaign later promoted the Fox segment, which called the claim "a death sentence" for Shaheen's reelection chances.
UPDATE: Fox News has responded to Vox's charge. In an email to TPM, Fox News executive vice president Michael Clemente denied that the network violated an agreement on exit poll results:
Polls didn't officially close in New Hampshire until 8 p.m. and Fox's report came nearly two hours before. So did Fox News break the rules?
Media outlets frequently share driblets from the exit data -- demographic information and questions on voters' mood -- all while dutifully sitting on the ultimate top line until the polls close. In an email to TPM on Tuesday night, Fox News said that's precisely what it did, too.
"According to the National Election Pool (NEP), we are permitted to report exit poll results as long as we don't characterize the outcome of the race which we did not do earlier this evening," Fox News executive vice president Michael Clemente said in a statement.
From the November 4 edition of Fox News' Your World With Neil Cavuto:
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This Election Day, a number of states are implementing strict new voter ID laws and registration policies in a high-turnout election for the first time. These measures have been found to have the potential to disenfranchise thousands of voters -- typically people of color, young voters, and women -- who are unable to obtain select forms of ID or are caught in flawed voter purges, but right-wing media figures frequently argue that these laws do not suppress the vote.
The right-wing media have repeatedly claimed that these laws are not racially discriminatory, do not affect minority voter turnout, and maintain the integrity of the election system. Fox News has referred to recent court decisions striking down voter ID laws as illegal or unconstitutional "setbacks" and questioned the timing of the courts' intervention on behalf of the right to vote. Right-wing media have also railed against attempts to stop voter purges, despite the fact that reports have discovered "Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted" in these methodologically unsound attempts to find ineligible voters.
Repeatedly discredited National Review Online contributor Hans von Spakovsky has been particularly vocal in his support of these unnecessary and redundant election measures, dismissing concerns of "chaos at the polls" even though hundreds of thousands of voters are at risk. On the November 2 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, von Spakovsky again promoted strict voter ID laws and registration checks and claimed that "this idea" that voter ID laws can "suppress minority voters, we know is not true":
But qualified voters are already being turned away from the polls or purged from the rolls in states that have enacted these new Republican-pushed measures, despite right-wing media's promises that such laws would have no negative effect.
Right-wing media are disingenuously claiming Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's (NH) widely-publicized support of basic campaign finance rules is "bombshell" evidence that she urged the "targeting" of conservatives.
Just hours before election day, the Daily Caller released a report alleging that Shaheen was "principally involved in a plot with Lois Lerner and President Barack Obama's political appointee at the IRS to lead a program of harassment against conservative nonprofit groups during the 2012 election." As evidence, it pointed to the fact that Shaheen had corresponded with the IRS lawyer William J. Wilkins about decades-old campaign finance regulations.
The Daily Caller added that a "major conservative super PAC" included Shaheen's name in a Freedom of Information Act request pertaining to the IRS. "If YOUR NAME is the search term that the conservative super PAC uses in its bid to get public information," writes Patrick Howley, "then you just might be involved in something."
Other right-wing media sources rapidly seized on the opportunity to attack Shaheen. Fox News, which has relentlessly promoted the campaign of her challenger, former Fox News employee Scott Brown, trumpeted the claim as "a death sentence" for Shaheen's Senate hopes.
But the Daily Caller's piece does not demonstrate a scandal of any kind and appears only to be repackaging already-reported information about a benign exchange of letters between several Democratic senators and IRS attorneys.
It's no secret that Senate Democrats asked the IRS to clearly define how much money 501(c)4 nonprofits, which gain tax exemption as "social welfare" organizations, are allowed to spend on election-related activities. In 2012, Democratic Senators, including Shaheen, released a letter publicly requesting that the IRS offer more specific "administrative guidance" on campaign finance restrictions for nonprofit groups. The request received media attention at the time, and IRS lawyer William J. Wilkins responded to Shaheen and others with a letter describing existing campaign finance rules:
"These regulations have been in place since 1959," Wilkins wrote. "We will consider proposed changes in this area as we work with Tax-Exempt and Government Entities and the Treasury Department's Office of Tax Policy to identify tax issues that should be addressed" in designing new regulations and "guidance."
"I hope this information is helpful," Wilkins wrote. "I am sending a similar response to your colleagues. If you have questions, please contact me or have your staff contact Cathy Barre at (202) 622-3720."
Right-wing media have repeatedly used unfounded conspiracy theories to prop up the IRS "scandal" after the allegations that the IRS solely investigated conservative groups' campaign spending began to crumble. Meanwhile, the political influence of money spent by outside groups has soared to record levels in the 2014 election cycle.
Radio host Laura Ingraham dismissed the sometimes insurmountable barriers voter ID laws can create to disenfranchise eligible voters to argue that voters deterred by ID requirements must not care enough about the country to vote.
On the November 4 edition ofher radio show, Ingraham suggested that "if it's too difficult for you to get a government issued ID in the states that require IDs," then "I don't really want you voting":
If you just sit it out election after election then -- well frankly if you make that decision not to vote, then I don't really want you voting. I'm kind of glad you didn't vote. Right? If you can't be bothered to get to the polls every few years, or if you can't be bothered to fill in an absentee ballot, or it's too difficult for you to get a government issued ID in the states that require IDs [...] I get this feeling that if you can't be bothered to go to the polls, then good. You can't care that much about the country, or you must be so uninformed that you think it's all going fine.
But the difficulty of obtaining an ID has been well-documented, and voter ID laws disproportionately burden low-income voters. A report from The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law explained that, for the "11 percent of eligible voters who lack the required photo ID," transportation issues and limited operating hours can be roadblocks. It found that almost 500,00 eligible voters both "do not have access to a vehicle and live more than 10 miles from the nearest state ID-issuing office open more than two days a week," and many of them live in areas with limited public transportation options. It also reported that many offices that issue IDs have severely limited hours:
- For example, the office in Sauk City, Wisconsin is open only on the fifth Wednesday of any month. But only four months in 2012 -- February, May, August, and October -- have five Wednesdays. In other states -- Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas -- many part-time ID-issuing offices are in the rural regions with the highest concentrations of people of color and people in poverty.
The report also pointed to the costs of obtaining IDs, which can be higher than the discriminatory "poll taxes" that were banned during the civil rights era:
More than 1 million eligible voters in these states fall below the federal poverty line and live more than 10 miles from their nearest ID-issuing office open more than two days a week. These voters may be particularly affected by the significant costs of the documentation required to obtain a photo ID. Birth certificates can cost between $8 and $25. Marriage licenses, required for married women whose birth certificates include a maiden name, can cost between $8 and $20. By comparison, the notorious poll tax -- outlawed during the civil rights era -- cost $10.64 in current dollars.
And voters have spoken out about the difficulties they faced in attempting to obtain ID. The Guardian detailed the story of a Texas man, Eric Kennie, who will be unable to vote in the midterm elections because of the state's strict voter ID law:
To get an EIC, Kennie needs to be able to show the Texas department of public safety (DPS) other forms of documentation that satisfy them as to his identity. He presented them with his old personal ID card - issued by the DPS itself and with his photo on it - but because it is more than 60 days expired (it ran out in 2000) they didn't accept it. Next he showed them an electricity bill, and after that a cable TV bill, but on each occasion they said it didn't cut muster and turned him away.
Two recent snapshots nicely capture the commentary class and their bulwark on behalf of Republicans this campaign season.
Lamenting the "pitiful" state of the 2014 election season, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni this week denounced what he saw as the vacuous condition of political debate. Claiming America's raging problems were akin to a burning house, Bruni claimed "None of the candidates have spoken with the necessary urgency or requisite sweep."
Oh, what the columnist wouldn't have given to hear some "real substance" on the campaign trail. The beseeching seemed odd because Bruni later announced the "defining moment" of the election season came when Kentucky Democratic senatorial candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes declined to answer a question, during a newspaper editorial interview, about whether she had voted previously for Barack Obama, who is very unpopular in the Bluegrass State. The question had nothing to do with the burning issues facing America, as Bruni described them. Instead, it was an exercise in optics: How would a red-state Democrat deal with a sticky question about her White House allegiance?
Nonetheless, joining an army of pundits who expressed horror at Grimes' clumsy response, Bruni announced the Democrat had "tossed character, honesty and any kind of mature conversation with voters to the side." Left unmentioned by Bruni? Grimes' Republican opponent simply refused to answer any public policy questions posed by the same newspaper editorial board that hosted Grimes; the same board that heard the Democrat answer queries for an hour about the environment, gay marriage, campaign finance reform, the government sequester, abortion rights, and coal mining.
So much for the absence of campaign substance.
Still, Bruni's column illustrated a certain Beltway media symmetry this year: Pundits lament a lack of campaign seriousness, and then treat a trivial gotcha question as being deeply serious. Count that as a win for Republicans.
Meanwhile on CNN, during her interview with Vice President Joe Biden that aired Monday, and while discussing the midterm elections, Gloria Borger insisted Americans are "frustrated" and "fearful" and "angry" about key events, including the administration's handling of the Ebola virus' scare. Borger's point has been a favorite among Beltway pundits in recent weeks as they parrot Republicans: Ebola's just the latest Big Government failure.
But it's not true.