The Times Herald (Norristown, PA)

The talking heads get a crucial election wrong again


As so often happens, the national political press was virtually unanimous in getting the 2022 midterm elections all wrong. Indeed, it’s hard to recall a major political event since the Clinton administra­tion that the Washington news media has gotten largely right.

That’s mainly because the safest place during any stampede is in the middle of the herd. Outliers get hurt. See, if everybody gets it wrong, then for careerbuil­ding purposes, nobody did.

To me, the most striking example of this phenomenon remains the near-unanimous zeal accompanyi­ng George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s determinat­ion to invade Iraq and confront Saddam Hussein’s imaginary arsenal of “weapons of mass destructio­n.”

With dissenters and skeptics all but purged from the Washington press, pundits and TV talking heads “embedded” with the troops. The networks covered the Pentagon’s ballyhooed “shock and awe” bombing campaign like New Year’s

Eve in Times Square. Ratings soared.

“Regime change,” the Bush administra­tion called it. A bigger military boondoggle and diplomatic disaster can scarcely be imagined.

But was any prominent journalist’s career damaged? None that I can recall. Nor were the handful of skeptics rewarded.

The stakes were far less dramatic during the midterm elections. But the unanimity was neverthele­ss familiar. A recent pre-election headline: “Democrats, on Defense in Blue States, Brace for a Red Wave in the House.”

The was far from alone in anticipati­ng what some dubbed a “red tsunami” of Republican victories.

On TV, report after report featured motorists fueling up a school bus-sized SUV and complainin­g about gas prices. Wellfed shoppers carped about the rising cost of groceries. Inflation, viewers were informed, was pretty much the only thing American voters really cared about.

Even some Democrats joined a premature circular firing squad. On election eve, Democratic operative Hillary Rosen told CNN: “When voters tell you over and over again that they care mostly about the economy, listen to them. Stop talking about democracy being at stake.”

And then the votes came in. Democrats narrowly lost the House, for which we shall all pay the price with two years of bad Republican theater. But they held the Senate, and with it the power to nominate federal judges not beholden to the right-wing Federalist Society.

Plodding old President Joe Biden, who imagined that Americans cared more about salvaging their democracy and their rights as citizens than the (rapidly dropping) price of gasoline, was proven right. Overall, it was the most successful midterm election result by any Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt.

White House chief of staff

Ron Klain put it this way: “Joe Biden has been consistent­ly underestim­ated because the political commentary culture highly values qualities that make someone a talented pundit on TV but undervalue­s the qualities that make someone a great national leader: wisdom, decency and determinat­ion.”

There were some political observers who questioned the inevitabil­ity of GOP triumph. MVP blogger Kevin Drum kept asking which you’d rather have, expensive fuel and one of the 10 million steady jobs created on Biden’s watch, or cheap gasoline and no job. The question answered itself.

Meanwhile, the big loser needn’t be named. Almost without exception, every prominent 2020 election denier on the 2022 ballot lost.

Biden was right. Americans care about their democracy after all.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States