Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
There were debates as to whether the coronavirus is deadly during a pandemic that has killed more than 1.7 million, including more than 2,500 New Mexicans. Allegations that the presidential election was fraudulent continue even as lawsuits making such claims have been tossed out of court and many Republican election officials have vouched for the results.
Among those latching on to the election claims has been state Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce, who in one episode of his radio show, “Inside New Mexico,” accused Democrats of buying absentee ballots days after the election, filling them out in states where the race was close and submitting them to be counted.
Pearce, through a spokesman, declined to comment for this story.
The former U.S. representative has also been broadcasting conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems, echoing President Donald Trump’s debunked claims that the systems deleted or switched votes for him to votes for his opponent.
Such claims are not only wrong, but they are also dangerous and are “undermining democracy,” Chris Krebs, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said on “60 Minutes.” Krebs was fired by Trump after he disputed the Dominion conspiracy theory and called the 2020 election “the most secure in American history.”
As we start 2021, where will the “post-truth” world we live in go from here?
The phenomenon didn’t start last year. The word “post-truth” has been around for some time, especially as it relates to politics.
It’s no mystery how a post-truth society gained traction, said Michael Rocca, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico.
The media have become more polarized – particularly since Trump was elected. That includes mainstream outlets such as MSNBC and Fox News, as well as anonymous social media sources. Right-wing outlets such as One America News Network have gained influence and followers.
With so many places to get information, people can essentially pick their reality and consume only news and opinions that match their worldview.
“If we’re only watching one station … we’re receiving news about an entirely different reality than what our next-door neighbors might be receiving,” Rocca said.
Consequences of such polarization aren’t limited to splitting groups of friends along party lines. Rocca said it degrades social capital, the effective functioning of different groups of people in a society.
Americans have long disagreed with one another. But 2020 reached new levels in many ways, as facts were often set aside altogether.
“If we can’t agree on simple things, like whether the virus is deadly or not, that is … going to affect how much we trust one another and how much we get along,” he said. “So yes, there are real-world consequences to this splintering.”
Where do we go from here? Rocca said there are reasons for optimism and pessimism.
Perhaps the current political climate will create an environment to reverse the trend, he said. The margin of Democrats to Republican in Congress will be closer than it has been for decades.
In the Senate, with two races heading for a runoff, Republicans currently hold 50 seats and Democrats 48, including the independents who caucus with them. In the House, the Democratic majority was trimmed in the recent election. Democrats will likely start this year with a 222-211 edge, with one race undecided and one vacancy after the death of a Republican representative-elect.
That lineup creates the possibility for energy policy and immigration reform – reforms that would require both parties to agree on basic facts, Rocca said.
“If they want to leave behind a legacy, they are going to have to engage the center,” Rocca said of both Republican and Democratic leaders. “And there is hope for that.”
That said, there’s also plenty of reason to be pessimistic about a post-truth world coming to an end soon.
Rocca said outside investigations, such as those into President-elect Joe Biden’s son, Donald Trump and the validity of the 2020 election, could keep a wedge between the two sides.
And a belief that Biden, at 77 years old, is likely to be a one-term president could hinder his ability to govern.
“It’s such a weird spot for American politics,” Rocca said. “There is so much tension, so much unrest, so much distrust in the system and in the political actors. But I also think that for president-elect Biden, Democrats and Republicans, it would be in their interest to just let America take a collective breath and try to get some things done.”