With less than a week until Election Day, President Joe Biden warned of “chaos in America,” addressing the threats to democracy posed by many Republicans running for office and growing incidents of voter intimidation. “It’s unprecedented, it’s unlawful, and it’s un-American,” Biden said Wednesday. In recent weeks, armed right-wing vigilantes have been patrolling near ballot drop boxes in Arizona—a state where the Republican gubernatorial candidate, fervent election denier Kari Lake, has suggested she will only accept the results of her race if she wins. In Wisconsin, GOP gubernatorial nominee Tim Michels promised Tuesday that “Republicans will never lose another election in Wisconsin after I’m elected governor.” New Hampshire US Senate candidate Don Bolduc, who pushed the falsehood that the 2020 election was stolen (before attempting to walk it back after the primary), has already raised the idea that the 2022 elections could be subject to the same problems. The list goes on.
Did this message cut across party lines? Not so much over at Fox News, where right-wing pundits took in what Biden was saying and in response promoted even more conspiracies about vote rigging and preemptively encouraged viewers to question any races Republicans don’t win. Anything short, they implied, would be oppressive and a limit on free speech.
On his Wednesday show, after Biden’s speech, Fox News host Tucker Carlson baselessly claimed that Democrats have made “voter fraud easier to commit” and implied that Biden was silencing Americans. “So here we are less than a week before the Democratic Party is expected to suffer overwhelming losses in the midterm elections, and here you have the leader of that party, Joe Biden, commanding you not to complain about the election results. Why is that?” Carlson asked, before concluding sarcastically, “We may not know the results of the elections for a few days, but don’t be alarmed…and whatever you do, do not ask questions, or else you’re a criminal.”
Fox’s Laura Ingraham interviewed Lake on her program after Biden’s speech, with Lake also arguing that his address was meant to preemptively stifle angry GOP voters ahead of next week’s elections. “They’re trying to keep us from speaking out as much as possible. People are waking up to the lies,” she told Ingraham, before positing that it was Biden’s speech—and not the repeated claims of election denialism among right-wingers, which have actually led to political violence—that was designed to “stoke political agitation across this country and make things worse and more divided.” Ingraham unsurprisingly agreed. “Now, the truth is that in the absence of any policies to renew America, [Democrats are not] looking to shore up democracy, but rather, they’re looking to further outlaw conservatism,” she said, “or really any form of dissent at all.”
Meanwhile, Ingraham’s 7 p.m. colleague, Jesse Watters, offered a similar but more optimistic spin on the presidential address, suggesting that Republicans will not even need to deny the midterm results, as they’re going to win in a landslide. “No one is gonna question the results of this election, Mr. President, because it’s going to be a blowout,” he said. “It’s not even gonna be close.”
Speaking inside Washington’s Union Station on Wednesday, Biden directly condemned the numerous Republican candidates who, following in the footsteps of Donald Trump, have refused to say whether they will concede should they lose next week. “As I’ve said before, you can’t love your country only when you win,” Biden said. “We don’t settle our differences in America with a riot, a mob, or a bullet, or a hammer. We settle them peacefully at the ballot box.” He also referenced last year’s Capitol riot and the apparent QAnon follower who allegedly bludgeoned Paul Pelosi with a hammer in what law enforcement says was a failed plot to kidnap House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “They’ve emboldened violence and intimidation of voters and election officials,” the president said of election deniers.
And to all that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the right wing’s message appeared to simply be: Carry on.