Seuss (and Electoral Fraud) Redux

The politics of bait-and-switch.

I know that I already wrote a long post on this topic earlier in the week, but a series of tweets by Jake Tapper that I read this morning helped me crystallize the exact nature of the dishonesty on display regarding both the lie about Dr. Seuss’s “cancellation” as well as the lies about the 2020 election (and, really, about “electoral fraud” in general).

It is pure bait-and-switch.

To wit, a key tweet from Tapper:

Specifically, he is reacting to Minority Leader McCarthy reading Green Eggs and Ham because McCarthy wants the world to know that “I still like Dr. Seuss.”

But, of course, the issue this week was not about Green Eggs and Ham (nor most of Seuss’s work) and certainly was not a question of whether people “still like Dr. Seuss” or not.

The bait is a press release about six Dr. Seuss title which is switched with “they are banning Dr. Seuss!” coupled with references to beloved titles.

As Tapper notes, and that I would further emphasize: if McCarthy wants to go on the floor of the House, or on Twitter, to defend the images Tapper includes above from If I Ran the Zoo, then more power to him. The fact that he isn’t, but instead making it sound like something else is going on, it telling.

Indeed, I have not seen any of the purveyors of the cancellation narrative actually defend the images in question, which underscores the point.

This is the exact same tactic being used about alleged electoral fraud.

It is why I get so frustrated with the Heritage Foundation’s so-called “Electoral Fraud Database.” It is bait-and-switch to get people spun-up about 1,130 convictions for election-related crimes without clearly spelling out what that means. People simply do not think of fraudulent petitions being signed when they hear about “electoral fraud.” Yet, the database allows people, like Deroy Murdock (as I wrote about last week) to bait people with what sounds like a lot of crime and then switch to grave concerns about 2020.

Indeed, most of the laws being pushed to create more “integrity” in our elections would not solve more of the crimes in the Heritage list. Stricter voter ID laws and making it harder to vote via mail would only address a handful of those case, for example.

But instead of dealing with the claims forthrightly (analogous to showing the offensivee caricatures from Seuss books), they switch up the argument to vague claims about stolen elections (analogous to reading Green Eggs and Ham despite no one debating that book).

It is all about claiming to “solve” one problem while really trying to do something else. Bait. And. Switch.

It is like Rudy Giuliani and his allies making any number of wild claims in press conferences, but being unwilling to actually make those arguments in court (due to, you know, lack of evidence). Although in reverse: Rudy read Green Eggs and Ham at the press conferences, but couldn’t get away with claiming Seuss cancellations once in court.

Likewise, FNC and Newsmax were, at first, happy to make all kinds of claims about Dominion voting machines, until the lawsuits showed, and all of a sudden it was disclaimers and caution aplenty. (Analogous to being willing to read Green Eggs and Ham and claims cancellation until being forced to show caricatures of Africans instead).

Here is my favorite example of that phenomenon:

There will be no lawsuits to make FNC be honest about what is, or is not, being done to Seuss works. And such lawsuits cannot be filed to compel politicians to be honest about that issue, nor about the elections.

But the bait-and-switch tactics are quite clear in all of this.

The dishonesty is deep.

I know most readers (certainly not most commenters) here don’t need to be convinced of this, but perhaps this will spark someone to think this tactic through, with all its implications for our current political moment.

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Modulo Myself says:

    It’s real simple. If you turn lazy, dishonest thinking into an ideology, then it’s part of the debate. You can hire a journalist because they’re a good journalist, but you can’t fire a conservative op-ed writer for bad, lazy writing because that’s like being fired for being a conservative. For example, George Will lied all the time about climate change, but he couldn’t be fired because you’re firing him because he’s a conservative, and that’s illiberal.

    I think cancel culture is partially a response to this.

  2. Gustopher says:

    There will be no lawsuits to make FNC be honest about what is, or is not, being done to Seuss works. And such lawsuits cannot be filed to compel politicians to be honest about that issue, nor about the elections.

    I don’t think our media knows what to do with dishonest, bad-faith people in positions of power.

    No one reputable dotes on the pillow dude, because he is known to be divorced from reality, or at least actively exploring a trial separation. But, it’s easy to ignore the pillow dude, because he’s not setting policy, he’s not on any committees in congress, and he is a complete nobody.

    Ron Johnson, Ted Cruz, McCarthy… that’s harder. They should have every opportunity to explain their positions to a broad audience, but all they do is lie.

  3. Scott F. says:

    The Senate just passed Biden’s COVID relief bill. Soon, the House will follow suit and the legislation will get zero Republican votes from either chamber. Biden will get a signing ceremony in the Rose Garden, and checks will start to go out to most Americans. The relief bill is polling at >70% approval today and I haven’t seen anything in the bill that is likely to decrease the bill’s popularity as its impacts begin to materialize – UI extended, assistance for state and local governments, funding for testing & vaccine distribution, and aid to schools and small businesses.

    What do the Republicans have besides bait and switch?

  4. Teve says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    . For example, George Will lied all the time about climate change, but he couldn’t be fired because you’re firing him because he’s a conservative, and that’s illiberal.

    Will was the last conservative I read regularly. When he started the blatant dishonesty w/r/t climate change, I was done.

  5. Slugger says:

    Is no Democratic representative going to read The Lorax? This is a golden opportunity.

  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Scott F.:

    R’s will spend the next decade trying to repeal the Covid bill.

  7. Tony W says:

    Thank God we have the Republicans to fight the good fight to help assure our literature remains sufficiently racist.

  8. Lounsbury says:

    In the end it would seem to me that if the Estate of Dr Seuss for their own family reasons has made a decision, then the drama is rather overdone. The author’s estate is free to make its own decisions…(for all that while the images are cringe worthy, I wouldn’t put them in the same category of racist qua racist… something of unconscious history bleeding through).

  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    Not only was the decision entirely up to Geisel’s estate, it’s a decision I’m morally certain he’d approve of, and probably would have taken himself were he still alive.


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