Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
Our long national nightmare is nearly over. With over $2 billion wasted bringing the electoral inevitable to fruition, it's been a long, and painfully predictable, time coming. It was always Romney's nomination to lose, and it was always Barack Obama's general election to lose. The only surprises along the way were Paul Ryan, the first debate, and hurricane Sandy -- all disastrous tragedies.
Barring drawn-out legal challenges, recounts, and the possibility that Ohio provisional ballots could tip a tight tally (they're not counted until November 17th), it's almost time for the media to start baselessly speculating about 2016, but there's still one night for cable news to shine their dull light onto every inane aspect of this election. So when you turn on your TV tonight, here's some of the nonsense you're going to encounter.
Forget Nate Silver. Hell, forget every data-driven indicator of how this thing will play out. Because cable news just doesn't care about informing you. They seek to entertain -- gin up an exciting narrative that this race is an anything-can-happen flip of the coin to win ratings and the resulting ad revenue. In terms of electoral politics, this MO is the most shameless abdication of journalistic responsibility -- outside of everything on Fox News, of course.
One way they'll go about this ignoble task is to play around with every conceivable Electoral College variation on the road to 270 votes. You've no doubt been seeing this for weeks -- months! -- but watch for it to get more ridiculous as states turn red or blue, and the improbable mathematical possibilities narrow.
On the bright side, maybe MSNBC's political director Chuck Todd will go blind. Then again, this is only good news if you're a terrible Ayn Rand fan who enjoys the pain of others (and washing clean food-pantry dishes).
Needless application of technological gimmicks
CNN is the king of techno-bells-n-whistles. 2008 saw the introduction of moronic celebrity "holograms," which were not actual holograms, and the Magic Wall -- a large touch-screen computer that's now become a must for any pointless cable news coverage. Well, unfortunately, CNN's keeping wraps on what absurd technological marvels they plan on revealing tonight, which means you're just going to have to tune in. However, having spoken with someone very close to Wolf Blitzer's beard on the condition of anonymity, we can expect several cyborg pundits (not counting James Carville), an artificially intelligent Terminator-esque killing machine (ditto), and a cloned T-Rex to add colorful, toothy commentary. But, no, that's not reliable information.
Look for every major network to lazily fill airtime and b-roll with idiotic tweets and Facebook comments, which is the nothing new, of course, but also look for a new level of Internet-oriented "experimentation." Both NBC and MSNBC are conducting shadow coverage online, with a behind-the-scenes feed and interactive components, so you can doodle on your tablet and feel like your voice matters. Because it does. I mean, unless you live in around the Toledo area, it really doesn't. Regardless, it's a great way to pretend that it does! It's also a great method for networks to produce free, user-generated content -- because that's useful, somehow, one would naively imagine.
There have also been some rumors that MSNBC will finally break out its long-awaited Saliva Suck 3000, which is thought to be a modified dentist tool on steroids that'll keep Chris Matthews's spit production in check, keeping his co-anchors dry, and you slightly less annoyed by his slobbery Philly accent. Cross your fingers!
As with chronic mapsturbation™, this has been going on for a while on the right, but expect tonight's excuses to reach a sort of uncritical mass, as the narrative is streamlined and packaged for post-election consumption.
The 47%. This is why Obama won, you'll hear. While demonstrating absolute confidence that Mitt's going to pull this thing off, Hannity and his ilk are qualifying their unwarranted cockiness with a dash of the imagined "transactional politics" brought to the fore by the now-infamous secretly recorded Romney video. The idea, based overwhelmingly in fantasy, is that the nearly half of the country's been bought off by sweet "entitlements" -- like the "Obama phone" (a Reagan-era program), welfare, and food stamps. Basically, goes the dumb thinking, poor people (read: black folks, mostly) are now so dependent on government programs (and probably lazy, too) that there's no turning back from the nanny state.
Hurricane Sandy. While trying to describe the super-storm as Obama's Staten-Island-Katrina with one side of their mouths, the Fox News nation will continue to contradictorily blame Obama's natural disaster competence as the ultimate reason for Romney's defeat on the other. That, and Chris Christie's fat, ugly, traitor face. This argument is not entirely without merit (weird, right?), but it is not technically correct. It's true that Romney gained momentum after his first debate with Ambien-zombie-Obama, but that momentum had plateaued, and begun to reverse, by the time the storm hit. Fortunately for right-wingers, they don't take their cues from numbers and facts.
In the highly unlikely case that Romney pulls this thing off, which, in that case, probably won't be settled for weeks, don't expect the MSM to investigate voter fraud (outright theft) in any significant way. They didn't in Ohio in 2004. And they won't do it if it happens again. It'll be discarded as a "conspiracy theory," which is bad in itself, but far more pernicious in that the excuses proffered by the mainstream "left" and the Democratic Party will be that America's just a more conservative place than we all thought, and that polling in general, and Nate Silver's poll aggravation in specific, is evidently untrustworthy. It will be a giant loss for math and reality. And you're just going to have to deal with being labeled crazy by friends, co-workers, family, and online troll-faces, no matter what glaring facts turn up in the wake of this potential injustice.
But on the bright side, there might be riots and looting. You'll get an illegitimate corporate overlord for president, who's hellbent on breaking the social contract, but at least you'll finally be able to get that Xbox.