The Real Winner in the 2014 Midterms: The Meme Culture

There is no better example of the emerging and unrivaled galactic power of social media and the internet than this election.
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There is no better example of the emerging and unrivaled galactic power of social media and the internet than this election.
thanks_obama

It's times like this when it's really difficult to not become even more cynical about the intellect of the American voter. In my nearly 30 years covering politics, I've seen very few elections that are quite this incomprehensible and, sadly, I don't think it'll be the last.

Yes, the Republicans will likely win enough seats for a majority in the U.S. Senate for the first time since 2006, elevating more crackpot tea party weirdos like Joni Ernst. The reasons for such a shift are baffling -- not just in an "I Can't Believe Candidate X Won" kind of way -- but in a totally contradictory, idiotic kind of way.

The other night on Real Time, Bill Maher recapped a series of indicators that should be quite familiar to anyone who reads my articles here. Indeed, we've covered this territory many, many times over the last several years and yet tomorrow America's pervasive voter ignorance will be fully illustrated in uncontested terms in spite of the following:

--The deficit has been cut from $1.4 trillion in 2009 to $500 billion today. The only Republican president in the last 70 years to leave office with a reduced deficit was Eisenhower, while three Democratic presidents, including Obama, have achieved this status.
--6.1 percent unemployment, down from 10.2 percent, and expected to drop to 5.4 percent by next Summer.
--4.3 million jobs created, in spite of taking office when 800,000 jobs were being lost per month.
--The DJIA has climbed from around 6,000 to a record high of 17,000.
--63 consecutive months of economic expansion following the worst recession since the Great Depression.
--25 consecutive months of increased domestic manufacturing.
--The lowest growth rate in government spending in 50 years.
--Domestic automakers are turning record profits.
--Even though there are serious environmental concerns, we're exporting more oil than we import for the first time since 1995.
--Gas prices are well below $4 per gallon.
--More than 10 million Americans now have affordable, comprehensive health insurance.

While we're here, Obama...

--Passed Wall Street Reform.
--Passed Pay-Go rules for government spending.
--Authorized government funding for embryonic stem cell research.
--Repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
--Devised the strategy that saved countless Libyans from Qaddafi.
--Kicked Banks Out of Federal Student Loan Program.
--Boosted Fuel Efficiency Standards.
--Created Conditions to Begin Closing Dirtiest Power Plants.
--Achieved New START Treaty.
--Hunted down and killed Bin Laden.
--Syria's chemical weapons are being dismantled.
--We're on the verge of a deal regarding Iran's nuclear program.

All of this with zero support and zero votes from the congressional Republicans who have racked up a record number of filibusters against everything from job creation to healthcare for 9/11 heroes. And voters believe a Republican Senate will improve things? How, exactly? In what universe would that be true?

So, given this list of positive indicators and knowing how the GOP has willingly had nothing to do with any of it, what's the reaction of voters going to be on Tuesday? Elect more Republicans because Obama is somehow a failed president. That's precisely the twisted voter calculus this year and it literally makes zero sense, especially when coupled with the fact that only 32 percent of voters approve of the Republican Party and just 13 percent approve of Congress. Just wait for the exit polls, too, when one self-righteous moron after another will explain to pollsters that he or she is tired of "gridlock" after having just voted for divided government in an age of unprecedented obstructionism. Smart.

As Maher said, yes, some of this inevitable result has to do with cowardly Democrats who refuse to run on the obviously strong record of their party's leader. But that only tells a small part of the story.

There is no better example of the emerging and unrivaled galactic power of social media and the internet than this election. What should've been a technological marvel that strengthened the discourse and facilitated the distribution of the facts has become a dangerous weapon of disinformation and claptrap. The meme culture, as well as the establishment news media's abuse of it, is so firmly entrenched and so deafeningly obnoxious that its viral caricature of Obama's record outweighs the reality of Obama's record by a factor of a gazillion to one.

Meme culture has unquestionably convinced at least half of all voters that Ebola and ISIS are Obama's fault, while ignoring virtually every item in the lengthy menu of traditionally strong economic, social and, yes, foreign policy indicators -- indicators that used to mean something, but which are now ignored in the ludicrously hyperkinetic scramble to troll for more clicks, more retweets and more shares. Reality, accuracy and intellectual honesty be damned.

There's no better example of the meme culture's dominance than the likelihood that Kentucky voters who support the state's health insurance exchange, Kynect, by overwhelming, supermajority margins (Kentucky Republicans also support Obamacare's Medicaid expansion) will likely re-elect Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who's repeatedly voted to repeal the healthcare law that created the exchange in the first place. Why? The "Obamacare" meme -- the meaningless, nonsensical, divorced-from-reality meme. Another example: voters nation-wide support the "Affordable Care Act" but hate "Obamacare." All of these people are voting tomorrow in droves. Sleep tight.

Tan suits, inconsequential gaffes, viral conspiracy theories and non-scandal scandals are now the collective barometers of leadership in the meme culture, and anyone who markets in such crapola ought to be shamed with the fury of a thousand Jon-Stewart-on-Crossfire scoldings for gratuitously "hurting America."