The morning after Obama is reelected, the news channel returns to its anxiety-mongering ways
To the victors goes the Schadenfreude. The day after Barack Obama’s and the Democrats’ fairly decisive electoral victories, Fox News is still licking its wounds, in simultaneously hilarious and terrifying fashion. On the riotous end, they’ve repeatedly shown a scruffy 20-something in Colorado screeching, “I’m going to get high tonight!” while petulantly complaining about Obama’s lack of bipartisanship. On the hair-raisingly efficient end, the talking point engine is already humming along, keen to make the “fiscal cliff” situation as much of a traumatic, partisan experience as the debt ceiling crisis. So 14 hours after Obama’s victory, Fox News is basically back to normal, having traded in yesterday’s super-sad faces and Karl Rove’s deranged attempt to flip Ohio and the election for Romney, for its more standard anxiety-mongering. Fox may have lost the election, but it still has a job to do: Even when one’s worst fears have been realized, there is always another fear (even if it has the lame name “fiscal cliff,” which sounds like it could be Jimmy Buffet’s backup drummer).
Fox has been pushing two big “themes” today. Last night, lamenting the fact that America is no longer the exclusive land of white people, Bill O’Reilly said that America was becoming a country of people who just “wanted stuff.” This afternoon, Megyn Kelly — in purple, the color you get when you mix red and blue— moderated a panel featuring Lou Dobbs and a token liberal on exactly this subject. Guess who talked the most? That’s sort of a trick question, because no matter the circumstance, it will always be Lou Dobbs. Earlier, Charlie Hurt of the Washington Times glossed the election as indicating that “Half the country says it’s time we deal with these huge massive problems, and a little more than half the country says, ‘Nah we don’t feel like dealing like them.’” Andrea Tantaros angrily said, “Obama created a new paradigm in American politics — dependency politics. Our country is turning to a socialized European country. Women actually voted over jobs for birth control. It’s very seductive to give people free stuff.”
Those viewers not pissed off enough about Obama’s victory on behalf of the lazy takers of America were encouraged to get worried about the economy. Fox’s other big message today is about the looming “fiscal cliff,” i.e., the automatic expiration of certain tax cuts, a reversion to much higher tax rates, and cuts in certain spending in the coming months. (Fox reporters only explain what the fiscal cliff is every so often, but they never fail to mention that economists say it will destroy the economy.) The network has broadcast near hourly segments on the state of the stock market — down 300 points today — mostly as an excuse to talk about the cliff. The downturn today doesn’t mean much, but as one analyst put it, the “real question investors are asking are what’s going to happen now with the fiscal cliff and the taxmageddon?” (Taxmageddon!) Another stock analyst said “the words resonating on Wall Street right now are ‘fiscal cliff.’” Even talk of the impossibility of bipartisanship was turned toward the “fiscal cliff” — how can Obama possibly work with Republicans to avoid it?
Surrounding all this network fear-mongering was a lot of absurdity. Fox aired a clip of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews saying he was “so happy for the storm last week.” That’s a enormously boneheaded and insensitive thing to say, but Fox should be a little less inclined to gloat given O’Reilly’s “Americans love storms” quote from yesterday. Laura Ingraham, also wearing purple, argued that the Republicans need someone way more conservative than Romney, just so long as he’s willing to do insanely obvious things like “actually be a smart conservative” who will “go into Latino neighborhoods and talk to African-Americans. They might not agree with you on everything, but they respect you when you take time to talk to them.”
My favorite recurring bit today has been Fox’s hourly update on voter fraud in Ohio, and how what is wrong at the polls in Ohio is not long lines and disenfranchisement but — you guessed it — illegal ballots and a lack of voter IDs. A Fox correspondent reporting from Ohio said, “Ohio election official says illegal votes were cast in the state!” If you want to know how many, Fox won’t tell you because then it would go back to having a horrible, irrelevant point. The voter fraud story got more ridiculous in a segment in which Fox gleefully noted that international poll watchers affiliated with the U.N. who had come to observe voter suppression were instead astounded that Americans don’t have to show ID at the polls. Megyn Kelly ran this one back to correspondent Trace Gallagher just to make sure: “So you’re telling me these groups, the NAACP, the ACLU, said we don’t like these voter ID laws, where people have to show ID. So folks from Kazakhstan come over here to monitor for voter suppression and the thing they take issue with is, ‘Why isn’t there more voter ID required, that’s crazy!’ Gallagher agreed, and then explained that voters in Gambia vote by marbles. At least they have some.
Willa Paskin is Salon's staff TV writer. More Willa Paskin.
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