PBS Fearmongers: GOP ‘Threats to Democracy Remain,' Like the House Speaker Vote?

January 8th, 2023 7:00 AM

Not even the loss in November’s congressional elections of many so-called election deniers has stopped PBS from fear-mongering about dangers to democracy. Thursday’s PBS NewsHour featured two hosts and two professors in total agreement about the ongoing perfidy of the Republican Party and the threat to democracy it poses, even as vital electoral reforms like the Electoral Count Reform Act have passed.

Even the public fight for the House Speakership, which after all involves multiple instances of actual democratic voting, is somehow contributing to the erosion of democracy.

Anchor Geoff Bennett introduced the segment:

In the first general election after the attack on the Capitol, many of the most high-profile election deniers lost their races. But threats to democracy remain.

Correspondent Laura Barron-Lopez tilted the ideological stage to the left, even throwing in the incongruous but symbolically potent phrase “hate crimes” into the mix:

Extremist political factions remain emboldened, former President Donald Trump's third bid for the White House is built on lies about U.S. elections, and cities are reporting a record number of hate crimes.

As if America’s cities truly beset by hate crimes committed by marauding Trump voters.

Barron-Lopez introduced her academic experts: Kim Lane Scheppele of Princeton and Cynthia Miller-Idriss of American University's Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab, or PERIL. The experts on "extremism" always focus on right-wing extremism, and never that other kind. 

Professor Miller-Idriss warned that the vote for House Speaker was somehow “holding up the Democratic process”: “….We are seeing right now a faction in the Republican Party of election deniers who are holding up the democratic process in a way that is making us laughable to the rest of the world. And so there are many ways that democracy can be chipped away at and eroded, and I think we are continuing to see the repercussions of election denialism even today.”

For her part, Scheppele didn’t much like the odor of the new Republicans, suggesting a strong ideological component to her fears over democracy: “And so we are seeing a lot of people running for office who have a lot of very unusual views and who don't have very many qualifications for actually holding office.”

After a clip of former D.C. police officer Michael Fanone calling on the new GOP speaker “to condemn political violence,” Miller-Idriss responded by again ludicrously suggesting the prolonged Republican fight over the vote for House Speaker was one of the “ways that democracy gets eroded here, and some of it is happening from right from within,” as if repeated examples of actual democratic voting somehow erodes democracy.

Barron-Lopez wasn’t fazed, failing to challenge the assertion and concluding the segment: “And many of it we will be tracking as we head towards 2024.”

A partial transcript is below, click "expand" to read:

PBS NewsHour

January 5, 2023

7:28:28 p.m. Eastern

GEOFF BENNETT: In the first general election after the attack on the Capitol, many of the most high-profile election deniers lost their races. But threats to democracy remain. Laura Barron-Lopez has more.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: Extremist political factions remain emboldened, former president Donald Trump's third bid for the White House is built on lies about U.S. elections, and cities are reporting a record number of hate crimes. Here to discuss this is Cynthia Miller-Idriss, the director of American University's Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab; and Kim Scheppele, a constitutional scholar at Princeton University. Thank you ladies for joining NewsHour. Cynthia, I want to start with you. One of the biggest takeaways after the midterms was that a lot of election deniers that were running in statewide races lost. They suffered big defeats. But you've said that the fever still hasn't broken. Why?

CYNTHIA MILLER-IDRESS: Yeah, I think that people want to think that the fever has broken, and of course that’s understandable and we should acknowledge and celebrate the fact that not all of the election deniers won their races, but many did. And we still have, we are seeing right now a faction in the Republican party of election deniers who are holding up the democratic process in a way that is making us laughable to the rest of the world. And o there are many ways that democracy can be chipped away at and eroded, and we are continuing to see the repercussions of election denialism even today.


LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And Kim, when we talk about the political movement that was inspired by January 6 or ahead of January 6 by the former president, there were at least two incoming freshman, Republican freshmen, that were at the Stop the Steal rally on January6, that’s Wisconsin’s Van Orden and New York’s George Santos. Do you think that this political movement will survive beyond the former president?

KIM LANE SCHEPPELE: Well I think one thing we’ve seen is that it existed before the former president, and it’s existing even as his hold on the Republican Party is slipping. In fact the worry is that what this has done now is set a new standard for what accounts as not outrageous-enough-to-not-hold-office behavior. And so we’re seeing a lot of people running for office who have a lot of very unusual views and who don't have very many qualifications for actually holding office.

So the worry is that this isn’t just about one person or isn’t just about one day, January 6, but that it’s something that really has become part of the culture of a whole political party in the United States, and in a two-party system, we can’t exactly do without one party. So you know what we really need are two parties that actually honor the constitution, forswear violence, and actually are in favor of free and fair elections. So as long as we aren’t certain about that, democracy is in danger.


LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: So what role Cynthia do you think that the Republican Party has in combating this political violence?

CYNTHIA MILLER-IDRESS: I think there’s two things going in what he said that are really important to call out. One is the absolute, and Kim said it as well, the need to have unequivocal condemnation of political violence and we need to hear that from every elected official, the local and the national level, and we’re not hearing that in strong enough terms or in sometimes at all, sometimes in terms that actually encourage it, and I think that that’s really dangerous, dangerous for democracy and dangerous and for public safety. But you also hear in his words some of the frustration that I think we are seeing citizens increasingly feel about what’s happening this week, in the lack of trust and increasing frustration that people feel watching people who are supposed to be just doing their jobs of democracy, having infighting and sort of childish tactics that prevent the work of democracy from getting on. And so I think we are seeing many different ways that democracy gets eroded here, and some of it is happening from right from within.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: And many of it we will be tracking as we head towards 2024.