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Cover Story

Big Red Lies

Does democracy stand a chance against the Republican Party's dishonest strategy?

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Sure, some corners of the media took umbrage, but, by and large, the mainstream press, ever so cognizant of being "balanced," was circumspect to the point of meaninglessness. The Associated Press invented the term "factual shortcuts" to describe Ryan's speech; NBC's Chuck Todd went with "perceived inaccuracies" that the Obama campaign "is trying to call attention to"; Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post's anointed fact-checker, penned an exercise in false equivalency titled "The truth? C'mon, this is a political convention"; the predictable Orlando Sentinel and Los Angeles Times played the he-said/she-said game with their headline, "Democrats: Paul Ryan 'lied' in convention speech." The story itself, by Times writer Lisa Mascaro, was no better: "Several of Ryan's key points hewed along the edges of factuality, and fact-checkers have been quick to pounce."

Hewed along the edges of factuality. Let that one rattle around your brain awhile.

Sadly, this is exactly how the Romney camp wanted this to play. The lies get lost in the jumble of a polarized media, of Fox News vs. MSNBC, of the Daily Kos vs. RedState vs. the talk radio echo chamber, of chickenshit newspaper editors and fact-checkers who worry so much about appearing "biased" that they bend over backward to pretend that both sides are equally to blame for everything. And the lies go on, the liars lying without penalty.

But it's more than the surrealism of a post-truth campaign that's killing our democracy. It's that the Republicans have, during the past four years, turned politics into a zero-sum game in which the ends always justify the means. So it's not just the Romney-Ryan campaign's pernicious lies, but also congressional Republicans' unprecedented obstruction and now the slew of voter ID laws in Florida and elsewhere, designed not to stamp out the nonexistent problem of voter fraud, but to, in the caught-on-tape admission of Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai "help Gov. Romney win."