Chris Matthews is not one to let a pesky thing like facts get in the way of a favored liberal narrative. That's why, for example, on the Oct. 22 edition of Hardball he insisted the 9/11 assault on the Benghazi compound was "all about" the YouTube video "Innocence of Muslims," when by that time it was most clearly established that it was a premeditated terrorist strike.
Well, yesterday, Matthews's obsession with painting a significant minority of Republicans as loony secessionists colored his cherry-picking of a Public Policy Polling survey. The Hardball host glommed onto a statistic in a December 4-released PPP poll that found some 25 percent of Republican respondents said they favored their state seceding in light of President Obama's reelection. "What do you want to bet these are the same people who say that President Obama is a Muslim?" huffed Matthews in a tease for a segment entitled "If at First You Don't Secede." But a look at the cross tabs in the poll shows that 27 percent of Hispanics, 29 percent of voters aged 18-29, and even 12 percent of African-Americans favor secession. Those demographics, of course, are all ones which the president handily won. At no point in his segment on the poll, however, did any of these facts come up. [MP3 audio excerpts here; video follows page break]
To be fair, PPP, a liberal-leaning polling firm, gave a lefty spin to its poll with their December 4 blog post entitled "Republicans not handling election results well." But for Matthews and/or his producers to only rip and read the blog post without delving deeper in to the data still says a lot about their journalistic much less intellectual curiosity. Besides, the PDF press release for the poll did have a paragraph devoted to the curious findings on the secession question, which reads as follows (emphasis mine):
30% of respondents indicated they thought Democrats engaged in voter fraud. 33% of Hispanics, the same percentage as of white voters, believe that Democrats engaged in voter fraud, to only 15% of African Americans When asked if they thought Barack Obama legitimately won the Presidential election this year or if ACORN stole it for him, 24% responded that they did steal the election for him, while 60% thought he won legitimately and 10% were unsure. Half of the Republicans polled (49%) thought ACORN stole the election.18% of respondents said they would support their state seceding from the union due to Obama’s reelection, to 68% who would oppose the measure. 27% of Hispanics would support secession, compared to 19% of white voters and 12% of African American voters. Young voters were also more likely to support succession. 29% of 18-29 year olds would support succession, while only 14% of voters age 46-65 and only 16% of voters age 65+ would support it.
Young voters, PPP found, were also most likely among all the age demos to believe that Democrats committed voter fraud, with 38 percent of voters aged 18-29 saying that compared to 27, 27, and 34 percents for the 30-45, 46-65, and over-65 age brackets respectively.
Of course keeping track of all this nuanced data would spoil the fun of a segment with liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank and liberal commentator Ron Reagan which was aimed at mocking the rank-and-file GOP voter.
"Here they are talking like secession is a good idea again," Matthews chortled. "Who are these maniacs?" he asked Milbank and Reagan. After Reagan offered that they would call themselves "patriots," Matthews shot back, "Of what country?" Reagan replied:
Well, good question here. So the way it works apparently is when democracy doesn't go your way, when you have an election and the other side wins, you throw the entire 200-plus years of the American experiment into the dumper.
Asked for his analysis a few moments later, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, a veteran journalist, did absolutely nothing to bring the nuanced data to the table, although he kindly offered that many of the pro-secession votes may have been cheeky protest votes:
Well, I mean, if you lose the election, nothing succeeds like secession.... There's two things going on here. One is it`s normal after elections that a lot of the losing side, they always say I'm going to move to Canada, but these guys can`t move to Canada because it`s socialized medicine up there.
It's a protest against the election. Also, this is roughly the same number of people who are going to say Obama is born in Kenya or he's a Muslim. This is the protest vote.... But you know what the best revenge would be? If Obama could in the White House receive the petition and say, OK, go ahead. You`re on your own. Because the states, the various states that have filed for these petitions, red states, tend to take in a lot more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. So, it would be very good --
A full transcript adapted from Nexis follows:
CHRIS MATTHEWS, host teasing the segment: Also from the "just get over it" department, there`s a new PPP poll that finds that 25 percent of Republicans want their state to secede from the union. Do you believe this number? I am deeply convinced it`s mainly in the South. And by the way, another 19 percent say they aren't so sure about secession. Are these people meatheads or what? Forty-four percent of the Republican Party either does or might go along with secession. What do you want to bet these are the same people who say that President Obama is a Muslim? Just guessing.
MATTHEWS, second tease for the story: Up next, 44 percent of a certain group of Americans tell pollsters seceding from the union might be a good idea. Who are these people? Half think ACORN, by the way -- half the Republicans think that ACORN, which no longer exists, stole the election for President Obama. Talk about paranoia. What is this fringe group called? It's called the GOP, the Grand Old Party. Wait until you see these stats. It's like "Jay Walking" with Jay Leno among them. I don't know who these people are.
MATTHEWS, opening segment entitled "If At First You Don't Secede": Well, remember "The Twilight Zone" on television with Rod Serling? We're entering it politically with the next story coming up. Take a look at this shocking statistics. According to the public Policy Poll out today, 25 percent of Republicans, that's a quarter of all Republicans you know, say they would support their state seceding from the union because of President Obama's reelection. Another 19 percent said they weren't sure whether their state should secede or not. That means leave the country, leave America, become something else. It isn't just that people tell anonymous pollsters. In many states, people are signing openly in public marketplaces out in the street petitions to leave the country. In seven states, the petitions have received enough support to force the White House to respond, actually. Take a look at this map of where the petitions have received the most -- well, that's a big shock -- signatures, Tennessee, North Carolina -- I love North Carolina -- Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas.
The secession movement has the most signatures in Texas, of course, with nearly 120,000 people signing on. According to "The New York Times" - - quote -- "Secession fever has struck parts of Texas. In Texas, talks of secession in recent years has steadily shifted to the center from the fringe."
And what is really going on here? Let`s find out.
Dana Milbank has the right attitude. He`s a columnist for "The Washington Post" and a brilliant one. And Ron Reagan, a good friend of mine, is an MSNBC political analyst.
I have got to let you at this first, Ron Reagan, because every time I see "Gone With the Wind" and I see all the Southern guys cheering, they can`t wait to tame Ms. Scarlet. Ms. Scarlet, we`re going to have a war, this is going to be great. And then, of course, it`s the horror of 600,000 people dead, including the burning of Atlanta. And everybody says, well, this wasn`t such a good idea.
Here they are talking like secession is a good idea again. Who are these maniacs?
RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I`m sure that all these people that are plumping for secession here would call themselves patriots...
MATTHEWS: Of what country?
REAGAN: ... would call themselves real Americans.
Well, good question here. So the way it works apparently is when democracy doesn`t go your way, when you have an election and the other side wins, you throw the entire 200-plus years of the American experiment into the dumper.
You have a little kind of hissy fit here.
REAGAN: We have all about in groups of people where -- you know, maybe eight, 10 people, and one of the people, one of the people in this group is character-disordered. They`re a real sociopath.
REAGAN: And over time, though, if you can`t get rid of them right away, that -- they change the entire dynamic, warp the dynamic of the group around their complaints and their sheer craziness.
These people are that person in our national conversation. They`re the crazy uncle at the table who you have to listen to his paranoid stories, or he starts throwing food against the wall.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go back to Dana for a...
REAGAN: That`s who these people are.
MATTHEWS: How about a check on that, Dana? Is it true that the right is driven by these people who are secessionists?
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right.
Well, I mean, if you lose the election, nothing succeeds like secession.
MATTHEWS: Like secession.
MILBANK: There`s two things going on here. One is it`s normal after elections that a lot of the losing side, they always say I`m going to move to Canada, but these guys can`t move to Canada because it`s socialized medicine up there.
MATTHEWS: I thought it was Australia they always wanted to go to.
MILBANK: It`s a protest against the election. Also, this is roughly the same number of people who are going to say Obama is born in Kenya or he`s a Muslim. This is the protest vote.
MATTHEWS: Do they vote?
MILBANK: But you know what the best revenge would be? If Obama could in the White House receive the petition and say, OK, go ahead. You`re on your own.
Because the states, the various states that have filed for these petitions, red states, tend to take in a lot more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. So, it would be very good --
MATTHEWS: OK, you didn`t name names in your one-eighth theory, Ron. But I think it may have some truth.
But here are some names. Ron Paul, very recent congressman, national candidate for the presidency many times. Ron Paul said secession is a deeply American, a deeply American principle.
Meanwhile, Alan Keyes, somewhat more wild sort, he wrote that while he doesn`t think we`ve reached the point where secession is necessary necessarily, it remains a, quote, "God-endowed, inalienable right."
So, there you have people with educations, people with brains and a knowledge of American history, who come out and argue that this is something that should be put on the table.
REAGAN: Yes. I guess brains and an education but still somehow profoundly ignorant and they`re emblematic of if not the ignorant people in the Republican Party, at least people who will pander to that ignorance. This secession thing is all of a piece with all the other. The birtherism, the climate change is a hoax, the -- if you cut taxes for rich people, magically the economy revives. It`s magical thinking, and we`re in the thrall of magical thinkers.
Now, the Republican Party has to, you know, they have to follow their magical thinkers. And because they do the rest of the national conversation gets distorted and pulled way over to the right. That`s what`s happening.
MATTHEWS: Ron, I love the way you suggest that the real patriots are the ones who want to secede from the United States. It reminds me, we once had a priest about 60, 70 years, named Father Feeney (ph), who`s a poet. And he said he didn`t like the church`s view because the church didn`t support no salvation outside the church. He was too liberal. So he leaves the church.
I mean, that`s just like -- wait a minute, you`re one of them now. What -- that doesn`t make any sense. It`s like we`re so patriotic, we`re going to leave this country.
REAGAN: We`re going to leave the country. Yes.
MILBANK: They`ll have to come up with a new name as they go.
Now, it`s not just the South. It`s parts of the plains, too, but it would seem to me as long as we could get like from the Northeast could get air rights over Canada to get to the West Coast, we could keep something of a nation together.
MATTHEWS: What would be their preferred nation to join, by the way?
MILBANK: You know they`re not going to Mexico.
MATTHEWS: They ain`t going to Denmark. They don`t like socialism. They`re not going to go where all the white people are. It`s not that what they want. What do they want?
MILBANK: What`s in the neighborhood?
MATTHEWS: Ron, give me some candidate countries they`d like to succeed and join or just bundle together.
REAGAN: Some autocratic regime in central Asia maybe. I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Here is some more interesting numbers -- more interesting numbers from the new PPP poll. What do Republicans think was really behind the president`s electoral win? Well, he won last month.
When asked why the president won the election legitimately or whether the now defunct ACORN group stole it for him, 49 percent of Republicans say that ACORN stole the election. That`s why Obama won. Half the Republicans say Democrats are engaged in voter fraud.
Ron, I`m far more fascinated by the fact that all these Republicans believe that ACORN stole -- how can you put your signature to that? How can somebody say to that openly on the telephone, well, I think ACORN did it? I mean, what --
REAGAN: Because they hear it on FOX News. That`s why. FOX News beats the drum about this kind of stuff and that`s all these people listen to. They live in this bubble.
MILBANK: I think they misheard it and they thought a unicorn stole the election.
MATTHEWS: I mean ACORN, the all powerful organization, ACORN.
They don`t have a nickel to rub against another nickel and they`re running the country.
Anyway, thank you, Dana Milbank. And thank you, Ron Reagan. I think we caught the spirit of this nonsense.
Corrected from earlier: I had the title of the movie incorrect. It was "Innocence of Muslims," not "Innocents of Islam."