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Jim Carrey's Facebook tantrum is another dead end for Democrats

Jake Novak
Jim Carrey's Facebook tantrum is another dead end for Democrats

Actor/comedian Jim Carrey really doesn't like President Donald Trump and the Republicans. He's also really mad at anything that may have helped them get elected.

Oh, and it looks like he thinks you're very easily persuaded.

That sure seems to be what's going on after Carrey's well-publicized call for everyone to delete their Facebook accounts and even sell their shares in the company. Carrey wants Facebook punished for profiting from Russian interference in the 2016 election and allegedly not doing enough to stop it from happening again:

Carrey followed up that tweet with a statement to CNBC.com that included this key line:

"Now, social media has created cyber-bridges over which those who do not have our best interest in mind can cross and we are allowing it. No wall is going to protect us from that."

Carrey has a good point about the Russian attempts to influence the election. The schemes to get access to both the Trump and Clinton campaigns are very well documented. Even more upsetting is the news Russia successfully penetrated the voter registration rolls of several U.S. states prior to the 2016 presidential election.

But his visceral hatred of Trump seems to be the real catalyst here. A look at his Twitter feed shows little of the humor and charm that made Carrey rich and famous. It's mostly just a litany of slams on the president and congressional Republicans, punctuated by sketches that sometimes get into obscene territory.


Carrey is certainly not alone there. A lot of us come off angrier and ruder on social media than we are in real life.

But if Carrey's attack on Facebook really is an attempt to weaken Trump, he's going to be very disappointed. In fact, his efforts do the president a tremendous favor. That's because promoting the fiction that Trump won due to interference by foreign forces keeps Trump foes well off the right track toward political recovery.

The "Russia won the election for Trump" narrative has to be called a fiction because there is still no evidence of it. Even that troubling report about Russia hacking voter rolls doesn't say vote totals were altered. Any significant voter machine tampering would have been highlighted by discrepancies in the exit polls. Instead, exit polls confirmed the Trump victory.

That's why these conspiracy theories are so damaging to Trump's opponents. Politics are like sports. Most candidates can recover from losses once they admit they lost fair and square and recognize the reasons why.

The idea that Russia swung the election for Trump via persuasive ads on Facebook is a double whammy in that way. It convinces anti-Trump folks to believe they didn't really lose the election. It also masks the fact they lost for the same reason every losing political candidate loses: he or she is a less persuasive candidate than his or her opponent.

It's a simple recipe, but political parties often get too bogged down in their own messaging to remember it's always about the candidate. Perhaps in the days before television or the Internet, you could run a successful campaign based solely on party identification or ideology. Not anymore.

The Democrats' best path to recovery is to start grooming candidates who have a record to run on that has nothing to do with Donald Trump. Some current and former Democrat state governors would be a good place to start.

The key is to find someone like Bill Clinton in 1992. He cleverly ran a positive campaign that wasn't about bashing Republicans or their incumbent President George H.W. Bush. He focused mostly on fixing the stagnant economy at the time. In short, the Democrats need to start refocusing on the voters' problems, not their personal nemesis.

Yet this Trump election conspiracy theory has dominated the Democratic Party's narrative for more than year. It remains the impetus behind special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian collusion, even though it appears to have morphed into a focus on alleged obstruction of justice. The Republican pushback on the probe has now led to evidence that there was some form of collusion between the Democrats and the Russian agents who contributed information for the now-infamous Steele dossier. It's all pretty dizzying when you try to keep track of it.

But what we actually know is far from sensational. Sure, the Russians tried to influence our election. They've tried to do that before. Where's the evidence they actually succeeded in any meaningful way? Do Facebook ads really persuade people that much? Most people have a Facebook feed that serves as an echo chamber for their beliefs and preferences. Moreover, an extensive study of Facebook user practices showed that conservatives were about 50 percent more likely to click on a story that opposed their political views than liberals.

If anything, the Russians seem to have chosen the wrong platform to try to get people who weren't already voting for Trump to do so.

Yet Carrey is more than just hinting the voters were too ill-equipped to fight off foreign machinations. He and many like him won't accept the Occam's razor explanation that the Democrats backed the wrong candidate. Worse, they're making the same mistake Hillary Clinton made with her "deplorables" comment or Mitt Romney did in 2012 with his jab at the 47 percent of Americans supposedly too addicted to government aid to vote for him. That is, they're blaming the voters. That's like a company making a product the public rejects, and then refusing to change the product because it's the customers' fault.

Since Facebook really is a news content provider it should do more to reveal the source of political ads and politically-motivated groups on its platform. Those are the rules traditional media companies have had to follow for years. If Carrey's outburst helps make that happen, then that's great.

But none of that will magically erase the 2016 election results or help the Democrats field a better candidate in 2020. Facebook's real and imagined misdeeds are just another detour on their path to political recovery.


Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny .

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.