How ACORN Stole the 2012 Election
NYRB‘s Mark Danner has a nice retrospective on the election (remember that?) that takes a view of the country both high and low. There’s a hefty dose of the What It All Means pontifications any election wrap-up inspires, if not needs; and there’s some good stuff from Danner’s experiences milling about the partisan crowds in the waning days of the contest. This bit in particular jumped out at me:
It is a peculiarity of this election that the Republicans embraced up until and indeed after the moment of voting a conviction that the entire public information and polling apparatus of the country, with a few exceptions, was lying. “All of it, the reporters, the commentators, all the damn so-called ‘news’—and the polls, especially the polls, you can’t trust any of it,” a retired businessman told me in early October at a Romney rally in Port St. Lucie, Florida. “I mean, who the hell are they talking to? Not any of us, certainly,” he said, sweeping his arm in an arc around him. And, turning away, “They’re all in the bag for Obama. Can’t believe a word of it.”
This was in the wake of the first debate, when Obama, faltering and shuffling about behind his podium with downturned eyes, had shown himself to be what they had always known he was: a myth and a fraud, a dark nightmare version of the tiny wizard quailing behind the immense Oz-like image built of him in 2008 and still sustained by the press and the commentariat and the grasping members of the 47 percent. “You saw what he really was, once you take away his teleprompter”—I heard this again and again from Romney supporters. Obama was a fake, a fabrication of the liberal media and of those who drew sustenance from the programs of dependency he distributed like so much candy.
To his credit Danner notes that the American hard-right has always believed, as a universal truth, in its own marginalization and oppression. You could trace it to the 1952 Republican convention, when Senator Robert Taft, a lonely but lionized conservative operating in the post-New Deal era of RINOs, lost the nomination to General Dwight Eisenhower. You could mark the starting date as Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign, which is widely considered to be the genesis of today’s rightwing counter-establishment. Or you could go even farther back, to the Know Nothings of the mid-19th century. As Corey Robin would argue, these roots run deep (so ignore ahistorical pleas for a supposedly bygone era).
Reading Danner’s interactions with representatives of the contemporary right, I thought about this week’s Public Policy Polling release and its schadenfreude-y finding that 49 percent of Republicans believe the years-defunct ACORN stole the election for the president. That triggered a healthy dose of chuckling on the left, somewhat justifiably — or as justifiably as any of the petty post-election gloating can be. Still, if you read what Danner’s “retired businessman” has to say, or if you were following any of the rightwing blogs in the final weeks before November 6, the Republican base’s faith in a grand conspiracy is actually somewhat logical. Emphasis on somewhat.
The most rational conclusion to draw would be that the rightwing media is detached from reality. But if your identity is far too enmeshed with political conservatism to allow a split from MiniTruth, then the only possible explanation for the disparity between what you expected and what you received is fraud. And at that point who’s to say whether or not ACORN really disbanded?