The mainstream media did not see Election Night 2016 as a cause for introspection. No critical analysis was ordered to determine how they got it so wrong (their polls had suggested Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the election were anywhere from 80 percent to 99 percent).
Inside the media’s Acela Corridor bubble, it was inconceivable that voters willfully could have rejected a veritable third Obama term. Rather than confronting that possibility, the media found bogeymen on which to scapegoat Trump’s victory. A 2017 Huffington Post article exemplifies the fallacy in their rationalizations: “We know that the American election was stolen by…Russian infiltrators” and “American white supremacists.” Never mind that many of those so-called white supremacists had voted for Barack Obama, or that the Russia fairy tale was a Clinton Campaign production.
Nate Silver claimed the real reason for the media’s blunder was groupthink, as only 7 percent of journalists identify as Republicans. Politico’s Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty pinned the press’ error on the geographical separation between journalists and Trump voters: “Nearly 90% of all internet publishing employees work in a county where Clinton won.” Both factors likely contributed to the media’s failure to appreciate the disconnect between the nation’s ruling class and the people they governed.
For nearly three decades leading up to 2016, establishment politicians saw it as America’s mission to enforce global law and order and spread democracy around the globe—too often via armed conflict. They embraced globalist trade policies that forced millions of American workers out of their jobs and destroyed America’s manufacturing base. At the same time, the country underwent “the largest peacetime demographic shift in world history” as “politicians [kept] the flow of low-skilled immigrants steady because it helped their corporate donors who benefited from cheap labor,” according to Ryan Girdusky and Harlan Hill in “They’re Not Listening.”
Girdusky and Hill contend that an insidious “disintegration of trust between the country and Washington D.C.” metastasized as “presidents…pursued an agenda that most Americans did not vote for and did not agree with.” By 2011, Americans’ faith in government had reached a 50-year low. By 2016, voters were exasperated. “Politician” became an insult.
Virtually every media outlet broadcast a confrontation between Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas)—hardly an establishment figure—and a group of Trump supporters at the 2016 Indiana Republican primary. Cruz attempted to engage the citizens in a spontaneous debate, but it would not be the photo-op the candidate had hoped for. “You are the problem, politician,” one said to the senator; another shouted, “Career politicians killed America!” The chasm between the people and their elected officials was apparent to anyone who watched. The media failed to take notice.
Fast forward to today. Election Day 2020 is less than three months away, and it feels like déjà vu. As if running on a campaign slogan of “Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss” (a line from The Who’s hit song “We Won’t Get Fooled Again”), the Democrat candidate is a 77-year-old career politician who has been in government for nearly a half-century and is making his third bid for the White House.
Joe Biden is promising voters a return to pre-2016 norms that includes a reversal of President Trump’s America First trade policies and a resumption of military interventionism abroad and mass immigration at home. A majority of Americans never supported these policies when they were being implemented under Presidents Bush (41 and 43), Clinton, and Obama, yet the news media has once again projected a landslide victory for the epitomic establishment figure in 2020. Biden has been heavily favored in the media’s polls, just as Hillary Clinton had been in 2016. According to CNN’s Harry Enten, “Joe Biden may win more than 400 electoral votes.”
But what exactly has changed since 2016? If just four years ago “politician” was a dirty word, what have inside-the-Beltway politicians done over the last four years to restore their reputation with the public?
Could it be their efforts to disenfranchise millions of voters by weaponizing the intelligence and law enforcement capabilities of the U.S. government to be used in a soft coup against a duly elected president? Could it be their never-ending show trials like the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, where a buttoned-up judicial nominee was falsely accused of running a gang-rape syndicate?
Maybe it is their maturity and decorum, such as when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up a copy of the president’s speech at the State of the Union Address? Maybe it is the fact that Democrats ran as moderates in the 2018 midterms, only to turn around and impeach the president for a crime he did not commit but that Joe Biden had confessed to doing on tape? Maybe it is the fact that Speaker Pelosi said, “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country,” before leading a partisan impeachment without a single Republican vote?
Or could it be the fact that the mandatory lockdowns in response to the coronavirus have been strictly enforced for some citizens, while Democratic politicians and those who are likely to vote for them get to play by a different set of rules? Could it be the “peaceful protests” that liberal politicians have endorsed and allowed to rage out of control for months on end, resulting in billions of dollars in property damage, hundreds of injuries and dozens of deaths?
Are you starting to get the picture?
So what to make of the polls that show Biden leading President Trump by such wide margins? One journalist, who got it right in 2016 by getting outside of the bubble and actually talking to voters, recently weighed in on 2020. “Truth be told, there are far more Trump signs than there were in 2016, even though there were a lot of Trump signs in 2016,” said Salena Zito about her tour of Pennsylvania’s backroads. “Yes, there is one Biden sign, then two, then more,” Zito reported, “but still far less by the hundreds than Trump.” The scene Zito describes hardly confirms the media’s polling data.
Radio host Rush Limbaugh has long-maintained that media polling is designed to shape public opinion, rather than to reflect it. Limbaugh claims the liberal media uses polling as a soft means of voter suppression, intended to deflate voter enthusiasm and dissuade conservatives from voting. The talk radio juggernaut says the polls will begin to reflect reality as Election Day approaches, when the pollsters’ reputations are on the line.
“I’m of the opinion that they’re still using their polls to make news, to shape public opinion, rather than reflect it. It will be the polls a week out from Election Day that will actually show true numbers,” says Limbaugh.
A recent Gallup/Knight study showed that a majority of Americans believe reporters are “misrepresenting the facts.” After all, these are the people who are telling us that arson, assault, and looting are “peaceful protests” and that Twitter is an accurate reflection of public opinion. The media now wants us to believe that career politicians like Joe Biden are back in vogue after four years of a Trump presidency. They may have fooled us four years ago, but in this author’s opinion, we won’t get fooled again.