Media are promoting Republican gains in the House and Senate in Tuesday's midterm elections as evidence that the country has shifted to the "center-right" on political issues, despite the fact that ballot initiatives and national polling reveal broad support for progressive positions.
Fox News hosts Jon Scott and Heather Nauert suggested that California voters did not know what they were doing when they passed a ballot measure that will reduce criminal penalties and address unconstitutional overcrowding in the state's prisons.
On November 4, Californians voted to pass Proposition 47, known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. As the Huffington Post reported, the measure would downgrade "nonviolent felonies like shoplifting and drug possession" to misdemeanors, an act that would lead to about "40,000 fewer felony convictions" and save the state "hundreds of millions of dollars on prisons" annually.
On the November 6 edition of Happening Now, hosts Heather Nauert and Jon Scott hosted a panel that included the author of Proposition 47 to discuss what the legislation would mean for California. Nauert suggested that those who voted for measure may not have known what they were doing. Asking "if the people who voted for that proposition knew what it was really all about," Nauert called its title "misleading" while Scott mused that "you do have to wonder" about it since "everybody wants safe schools and neighborhoods... but do they know what they were really voting for?":
But Fox's assessment of voters' inability to grasp what they were voting for ignores the wide-margin by which the measure passed. Capturing 58 percent of the vote, Proposition 47 proved widely popular with Californians at the ballot box.
Moreover, the new law will bring the California justice system in compliance with its constitutional obligations. In 2011, the Supreme Court ordered California officials to reduce its prison population, which had grown to unconstitutionally high levels after the state enacted a "three-strikes law" in 1994 that forces judges to sentence repeat offenders to prison for life. Writing for the majority, conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy determined that California's prison system resulted in "needless suffering and death" as a result of "serious constitutional violations." Kennedy continued:
Overcrowding has overtaken the limited resources of prison staff; imposed demands well beyond the capacity of medical and mental health facilities; and created unsanitary and unsafe conditions that make progress in the provision of care difficult or impossible to achieve. The overcrowding is the "primary cause of the violation of a Federal right," specifically the severe and unlawful mistreatment of prisoners through grossly inadequate provision of medical and mental health care.
California lawmakers were still struggling to address "severe overcrowding" in the state's prison system earlier this year, but Proposition 47 is one step towards getting the state in line with the Supreme Court's order while still ensuring that violent offenders remain in prison.
Nauert and Scott's comments are just the latest Fox attack on voters. The network has previously suggested that young women shouldn't vote, that young people should stay away from polls "if they don't know the issues," and that Americans should have to pass citizenship tests before gaining the right to vote.
From the November 6 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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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.