Manufactured Partisan Lies And Political Violence (2024)

Two newspaper articles were appropriately placed alongside each other in Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal that speaks to an issue we need to have more honest conversations about as a nation. The causes and the resulting consequences of spreading partisan lies and completely unfounded nonsense about our election processes are not new topics.

The result of those lies is a growing acceptance of political violence in our nation, and that is something we simply must repudiate in the strongest means possible. A troubling increase in the number of voters, as evidenced by polling data, even rationalize their ideas about political violence. Those numbers have increased since Donald Trump took his escalator ride in 2015 to announce his presidential candidacy. One-third of Republicans believe that “patriots” may have to resort to violence to “save the country”. We have read of the threats from some citizens who advocate for a civil war; discussing the topic as if it were of no more gravity than whether to place bacon strips or cheese on a burger. More than two-fifths of Americans believe civil war is at least somewhat likely in the next 10 years, according toa survey– a figure that increases to more than half among self-identified “strong Republicans”

The nation has discussed whether this danger to our democracy is due to a lack of civics education, history not being understood in our public school classrooms, not having the reading ability or reading comprehension students must have when graduating high school, or not being able to be serious news consumers among the broad array of choices that can be selected. Whatever has happened and to whatever degree the above may need to share the blame, one thing is strikingly clear. Many of the key figures within the Republican Party have adopted the playbook of creating and fomenting lies about our electoral process and the resulting outcomes of elections.

The Sunday newspaper reported that very thing. Starting with former State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman.

He was hired by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, on the taxpayer dime, to review the state’s presidential election. Though there was nothing to review, as audits and more audits had concluded a fair election had been conducted in the Badger State, with Joe Biden the winner. Gableman willfully and purposely fabricated and then wildly spun lies about who voted in the 2020 November election.

…figures in his 136-page report claiming 100% of the registered voters in nursing homes in heavily Democratic Dane and Milwaukee counties, and in Racine County, home to the Democratic-leaning city of Racine, cast ballots in 2020. In Kenosha and Brown counties, home to the Democratic-leaning cities of Kenosha and Green Bay, the figures were 97% and 95%, respectively, he said.

But a Wisconsin State Journal review of municipal poll books that year found residents in nursing homes in the five Wisconsin counties did not vote at unusually high numbers. Poll books show who was registered and who voted in a given election.

In only one of Dane County’s 18 state-licensed nursing homes was turnout 100%: Nazareth Health and Rehab Center in Stoughton, where all 12 people listed as registered in the poll book had their ballots tallied. Turnout among all the others ranged from 42% to 91%.

Gableman’s turnout numbers for nursing homes in the other four counties proved to be equally false.

What follows with these lies in the conservative echo chamber matters as they are being heard repeatedly by a segment of the electorate who are prone to simply believing what they receive from certain media outlets. From the opening blasts of Fox News and Friends in the morning to conservative talk radio through the daytime followed by the evening offerings from shameless talk show hosts on Fox prime time or other right-wing channels means a daily diet of absurdity is being swallowed. The rest of the nation might laugh with late-night comics on the main networks at the bizarre conservative on-air antics, but we know what is being spread has deadly consequences.

The WSJ had a second story about this larger topic, with Michael Fanone, a former Washington, D.C., police narcotics investigator, placing into context what happens when partisan lies are accepted by a certain segment of the nation. He was suited up for the first time in over a decade to defend the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.

Instead of conducting his scheduled narcotics investigation that day, he went to the Capitol complex after reports of the original perimeter being breached by rioters.

“I remember turning on my radio and listening to officers screaming for help after the initial perimeter had been breached,” Fanone said. “We ended up responding to a specific distress call from the Lower West Harris tunnel — and that’s where you see a lot of the fighting on my body-worn camera footage, and it ended up probably being the apex of all the violence that occurred at the Capitol on the 6th.”

Bodycam footage from that day showcases screams and sounds of terror from Fanone, as he is stuck in a crowd attempting to further enter the Capitol building. “I’ve got one,” someone shouts as Fanone is attacked.

I’ve got kids,” said Fanone as he pleaded with the mob calling out to “kill him with his own gun.”

Our nation had deep divisions and rancor aplenty in the eras of Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and both of the George Bush men. But never did any of them, or other contenders for the Oval Office in their times, act recklessly by encouraging the most unstable in the nation to act against national interests. It never would have occurred to them, as governing was seen as a high calling. Whether the opposition agreed with the policy or politics of their times, no one would have even considered striving to undermine the foundations of democracy. Even Richard Nixon took the road of resignation, as opposed to a long dangerous road for the nation, that would have resulted from a Senate trial.

Politics as combat was reserved for the House and Senate floor. Donald Trump with his authoritarian mindset and warped character has turned that phrase into a deadly outcome as we witnessed on Jan 6th. It must be one of our top priorities as a nation to seek ways to address those who think the threat of violence is a valid political solution to their perceived grievances. The Republican Party must again take seriously their role in American politics. That can start by crossing the low bar, the very one the rest of the nation considers a most basic concept. State clearly, and repeatedly, as often as the election lies were tossed about, that there is no place for violence in our political process.

Manufactured Partisan Lies And Political Violence (2024)
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