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Did the media scare America straight?

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Bob Gaydos
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Polls show Republicans poised to win in midterms CNBC's Ylan Mui joins Shep Smith to report on the latest polls ahead of the midterm election next Tuesday. For access to live and ...
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By Bob Gaydos

Exhale, America, you survived another election in the era of Trumpism. Apparently, some of you did learn history's lesson on complacency enabling the spread of fascism. Not that the purported defenders of democracy " a free press " did much to help the cause.

The "surprising" results of the 2022 midterm elections, as characterized by the mainstream media, once again demonstrated the dubious reliability of political polling and the very real risks of news agencies relying heavily on them to "predict" what is likely to occur when people give their actual opinions at the ballot box.

The "red wave" of Republican victories predicted to occur across America failed to materialize this year, even though in midterm elections the party out of power is "supposed to" make gains because people are fed up with the current president and his policies. That's what the political "wisdom" is and that's the bias that goes into much of the polling and the reporting on the campaigns.

But this year it didn't happen. Democrats maintained control of the Senate and may have an even stronger hold depending on a runoff election in Georgia. And Republicans are likely to have only a slim margin of control in the House. And, there was no avalanche of Republican election deniers being swept into office in state elections on the strength of a Trump endorsement.

What happened? Apparently, abortion did matter. Democracy did matter. Ukraine did matter. Inflation? Yes, it hurts. But voters obviously felt they would survive it again and, just maybe, President Joe Biden wasn't to blame.

But you'd have had a hard time knowing that pre-election if you listened to the loudly opinionated "newscasts" on television and the carbon copy reporting in most newspapers, much of it based on information provided by pollsters, many of them funded by Republicans. Did anyone reporting on the polls consider that a basic Republican strategy the past several years has simply been to lie?

Of course, by constantly repeating the polls' supposed prediction of what was likely to happen on Election Day, the media did create a lot of anxiety among a lot of people. And maybe that got more people (especially young people) to vote who might otherwise have sat this one out. But that would only mean that the basic assumption of most polls and much reporting was incorrect to start with: that Americans were fed up with inflation and Democratic spending and eager to embrace Republican policies.

Republican "policy" under Trump has been to divide and conquer, lie and cheat, make voting harder, restrict freedoms of non-white, non-straight, non-Christian, non-male Americans, provide tax cuts for the wealthy, dumb down the public education system, promote violence against political opponents " and blame Democrats for everything.

That's a lot of alienation. It's a lot of restriction. It's budding fascism, in fact.

A lot of Americans apparently noticed. Not nearly enough, but enough to prevent total chaos in Washington and to provide time to take stock of what direction this purported beacon of democracy wants to pursue.

In its unflagging pursuit of win-or-lose, horse-race reporting based on increasingly unreliable polls (do you know anyone who actually answered a poll?), the only thing positive to say about the job of the American press on this story is that it might've scared enough previously unconcerned people into voting and proving the predictions of the "experts" to be wrong.

That would mean a lot of Americans deserve credit for recognizing, for many of them perhaps the first time, the real threat to democracy represented by the Republican Party's capitulation to Trumpism. It also means that reporters ought to be talking to more real Americans, real voters, before writing about what those Americans supposedly think. It's important, because the threat, while weakened, has not disappeared.

There's a lot of arguing among Republicans today about who's to blame for their party's disappointing (to them) election results. (I'd say they all are.) A lot of them blame Trump himself, which is a change, and Trump himself faces several serious legal actions. But the threat is still alive and well in some elements of the Republican Party. Start talking with voters in Florida and Texas, reporters. Trumpism may or may not be fading, but fascism is always looking for another face.

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Bob Gaydos is a veteran of 40-plus years in daily newspapers. He began as police reporter with The (Binghamton, N.Y.) Sun-Bulletin, eventually covering government and politics as well as serving as city editor, features editor, sports editor and (more...)
 

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