Ask Republican leaders on Capitol Hill about this year's midterm elections, and they'll likely answer by talking about the present and the future. Ask GOP candidates trying to break through in competitive primary campaigns the same question, and you'll probably hear answers about the recent past.
In Arizona's U.S. Senate primary, for example, Republican Jim Lamon recently aired an ad in which he insisted that politicians "rig our elections," while showing an image of President Joe Biden. Around the same time, in Ohio's U.S. Senate primary, Republican Bernie Moreno — who used to know better — also launched a commercial in which he told voters, "President Trump says the election was stolen, and he's right."
They're not alone in peddling ridiculous election-related lies. Consider the case of Rep. Billy Long.
The winner of Missouri's Republican U.S. Senate primary will be in a strong position to win the powerful seat, which in turn has created a crowded field of candidates. Hoping to break through, Long launched an ad about a week ago, claiming that Donald Trump "made America great, but the Democrats rigged the election."
The congressman added that he's running in part to "stop the Democrats from stealing another election."
It's possible, of course, that Long realizes that such claims are obviously untrue, but he's peddling lies in the hopes of currying favor with the GOP's far-right base. It's also possible that the congressman has convinced himself that these nonsensical claims are true.
Either way, Long's ad suggests that he sees obvious election-related falsehoods as a way to advance his ambitions. There are, however, some problems standing in the way.
Putting aside the corrosive effects these lies have on our democracy, there are also companies like YouTube that have policies against promoting such lies. In fact, YouTube this week pulled the congressman's ad, explaining that the company's "elections misinformation" policy includes a prohibition on "content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches changed the outcome of select past national elections."
Long violated the policy, so his demonstrably dishonest ad was taken down. As The Washington Post reported, the Missouri Republican isn't taking it well.
Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) is accusing YouTube of being "un-American" for removing an ad for his Senate campaign in which he falsely claims Democrats "rigged" the 2020 election, echoing the baseless and debunked claims of former president Donald Trump. "This behavior by YouTube is un-American and straight from the communist playbook," Long said in a statement Thursday. "Removing my ad proves my point that Big Tech certainly has and will continue to influence elections."
As Long sees it, YouTube's policies against disseminating elections misinformation are irrelevant — or at a minimum, less important than his desire to mislead the public.
But this does not resemble "communism." YouTube is a private entity. Politicians cannot credibly demand that it promote their lies.
This also does not prove that tech companies are trying to "influence" election outcomes. If Democrats peddled obvious election-related misinformation, it's a safe bet that YouTube would apply their standards in an even-handed way.
In theory, this little ordeal would be an embarrassment to Long. After all, he's just been caught trying to deceive the public. In practice, however, the GOP congressman and Senate candidate will likely exploit these developments to raise his visibility with Missouri Republicans, which was the point of the mendacious ad in the first place.