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Red Waving, Fox News and Sanity's Survival
They hyped a GOP blow-out, but a desire to calm the extremism has largely won the day. Now we'll see if the loss only exacerbates the madness that is Trump and Trumpism.
These midterms have served up quite a few bits of good news. Topping the list: the American people’s refusal to toss democracy overboard and usher in an era when our nation is defined by extremist election deniers who get their kicks from cruelty and lies. The news Saturday night that the Democrats held onto the Senate is more than enough reason to pop champagne.
Another should be cooling in the fridge with Sunday night’s news that Arizona gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs’ 26,000-vote lead over Kari Lake—one of the nastiest perpetrators of this grim, Trumpist strategy—is nearly insurmountable. (“Extremely tough to see how Kari Lake (R) wins now,” noted voting expert David Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Report.) And the lingering possibility, even if unlikely, that the Democrats could still hold onto their House majority? Still hard to believe that rejection of the Republicans’ frightful parade of characters could be so resounding.
But before looking ahead to the expected presidential announcement tomorrow by the leading purveyor of violent, sociopathic incitements to get and keep power, I thought it useful to look back at how many Republicans became convinced of their omnipotence and the inevitability of their overwhelming victory in the midterms. In short, look no further than the Fox News bubble and its chief propagandists determined to spread their narrative, reality be damned. More on this soon.
You didn’t need to be watching their shows to know that their “red wave” line was picking up steam. No matter what issue I was addressing online, I was getting bombarded by “red wave-ists,” possessed by certitude and hostility. What follows offers a rogue’s gallery of this mindset.
It all seemed so clear for them. Merrick Garland indicting Trump after the midterms? “The red WAVE will wash all of that away.” Not prosecuting Trump would be a profound error? “RED WAVE BABY!!!!” Trump has turned so many Americans against each other with hatred and hunger for violence? “The Red Wave is coming soon!” One day President Biden will be recognized for his achievements? “True, for single-handedly galvanizing right-minded Americans into a red wave that rescued our nation from destruction.”
But on election night Tuesday, there was a confused, stunned pallor hanging over the Fox set. By Wednesday morning Fox & Friends’ Brian Kilmeade said, “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m shocked there was no red wave.” By Wednesday night, though, host Sean Hannity was playing dumb, insisting the polls “in every key race were within the margin of error” and he had no idea where all these red wave “rumors” had originated. Uh-huh.
Then came a video mash-up from The Washington Post’s senior video editor J.M. Rieger that—if Hannity were to watch it—would surely trigger his apparently very poor memory. The digital evidence of the daily and nightly onslaught was relentless. As Rieger noted, “Fox News hyped a ‘red wave’ for weeks leading up to the midterms.”
Laura Ingraham: “Red Wave rising. That is tonight’s angle.” Greg Gutfield: “I’m sure Joy [Reid] will learn two new words on Tuesday. That’s red wave.” Maria Bartiromo: “We begin this morning with expectations of a big red wave.” Steve Doocy on Fox & Friends: “I think your predictions of a red wave are accurate.” Pete Hegseth: “When the red wave comes—and it is coming….” Jesse Waters: “Red wave is rising.” Karl Rove: “I’m feeling red wave.” Another Fox contributor: “We’ve been hearing, ‘Is it going to be a red wave or a red tsunami?’ I think it’s going to be a red hurricane.”
Of course, they weren’t the only ones. Trump promised “a red wave because of crime.” Sen. Ted Cruz touted a “red tsunami” and radio host Joe Rogan—not to be outdone—promised a bloodbath that would look like the gushing flood of blood in Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining. Oh, what a happy tidal wave of horror it would be, crushing their opponents.
Even if the Republicans take the House by the slimmest of margins, those overblown expectations have helped fuel the sudden discontent rifling through the GOP and even motivating the first faint signs that some Republicans are ready to brand their cult leader with a big “L.” And not just from Rupert Murdoch’s media properties (as detailed in my piece “Reasons for Optimism” on Friday).
Laughably, Republican Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said Sunday on NBC, “We’re not a cult. We’re not like, OK, there’s one person who leads our party…We should be a party of ideas and principles.” But it was former New Jersey Gov. and Trump ally Chris Christie who most clearly stated that the loser is Trump.
When Donald Trump won in 2016, he said we were going to get so tired of winning we would ask him to stop winning so much. In 2018, we lose the House. In 2020, we lose the Senate and the White House. In 2021, we lose two winnable [Senate] seats in Georgia. And in 2022, we vastly underperform historic norms given inflation and gas prices and crime and a president at 40 percent. I’m tired of losing.
The notion of “narcissistic collapse” refers to when it’s no longer possible for a person to keep up the charade between the false self—their grandiose, overblown self-image—and the real self. The big victory of Florida Sen. Ron DeSantis this week combined with the rising chorus of voices questioning the future of the GOP with Trump at its helm is not about to convince him to bow out quietly. But, even if he can assume that Trumpism remains in his cult’s bloodstream, it’s hard to imagine that it hasn’t caused damage to his ridiculously fragile ego. It’s no wonder that he’s begun lashing out at DeSantis and another political rival, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
These are good times for political observers who relish the coming combat between the untested, less nimble DeSantis and an increasingly desperate Trump who’s always ready to burn down the party and the country with it. Because it portends yet more extreme Trump drama at a time when the country could use less lies and fury and more calm and reason, don’t count me among them. The midterms proved that the majority yearns for something else.
This week—like last week and next week—is a perfect time to step out and announce indictments. There’s no doubt that that will trigger the MAGA crowd that has been on overdrive since the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago in early August, but has been quieter this week. But I remain convinced that it will take indictments and prosecutions of Trump—and the hard daily work of “doing democracy”— if we are ever going to have a chance to put this constant danger behind us.
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