Election 2022: Kind of Blue

So why was everyone in the media seeing Red?

Election 2022: Kind of Blue
(Chris Delmas/Getty Images)

My two cents about Tuesday’s election: The beginning of the end of the Trump Era may at last be in sight. The bloated parade balloon has been punctured, the spell has been broken. There are still millions of delusional true believers out there in the heartland, but in Washington and in the nation’s statehouses, Donald’s status as a kingmaker – at this stage his only source of power – is over. Yes, some Trump-backed election deniers got voted in, but far fewer than expected. Yes, Texas and Florida remained solidly in the red, but in spite of the Former Guy rather than because of him. As I wrote this, the right-wing “news” machinery is swiveling its gun turrets  in Trump’s direction. The New York Post depicts him as “Trumpty Dumpty” on today’s front page, the Wall Street Journal is excoriating him on the op-ed page, and Fox News is laying Tuesday’s disappointing Republican showing at his feet. When you’ve lost Rupert Murdoch and his low-, high-, and middlebrow news outlets, you’ve lost the ballgame. This country’s anti-democracy overlords now turn their sights to Ron DeSantis, who may turn out to be a smarter Trump, or a bust – we’ll see. Trump himself is expected to declare his 2024 candidacy ahead of indictments that are surely coming (if they’re not, we may as well call it a day), and that stands to trigger a bloody, enervating civil war within the Republican party. Pardon me while I grab some popcorn.

Otherwise, unlike many people – and unlike the professional pundit class – I went into this week with hope, and my hope was largely rewarded. If you call a failed optimist naïve, do you call a prescient optimist realistic? Given how hard the various outlets of record were pushing the “Red Wave” that was going to wash our democracy out to sea – given how even the headline on Wednesday morning’s New York Times continued to flog a narrative disproven by actual and projected numbers – it was easy for a shaggy old Democrat to despair. But to anyone who was paying attention the wholesale rejection of the Kansas anti-abortion amendment in August was a sign that even in the reddest of states it was Dobbs, not inflation, that was infuriating voters into action. Or maybe they were just the kind of voters to whom pollsters and the pundits don’t pay enough attention: Women, people of color, the young.

It was the last two groups that proved decisive on Tuesday – and younger voters, it is devoutly to be wished, will continue to prove so. Among the losers of the 2022 midterms were the thought leaders of most major newspapers, all the cable-news talking heads – basically anyone who thought they knew what was going to happen. But any poll that underrepresents the under-30 voting bloc simply can’t be taken seriously, because any parent of an under-30 adult child knows how hard it is to get them to answer their phones for even the people they do know. (And any poll that relies primarily on landlines is guaranteed to skew older and more conservative.) It’s possible that the traditional poll model is broken, perhaps permanently, and I see that as a good thing, pushing the news industry away from the horse-race model and hopefully (ha) back to substantive coverage of the issues.

Of course, any polls that skewed more positively for Democrats seem to have been downplayed by the mainstream media for a variety of reasons, some of which was simply the dreaded Conventional Wisdom setting like cement. Maybe I was comparatively sanguine about the election because I stopped watching cable news a long time ago – CNN, MSNBC, all of it – and have over the course of the Trump era come to distrust the New York Times for anything other than arts coverage and the daily Spelling Bee. Twitter has long been my canary in the coal mine for breaking news, after which I’ll cross-collate reporting from the Washington Post, the Times, the Globe, BBC Online, and other outlets. (With Twitter currently in free fall as its new owner, Baby Huey, smashes it to pieces, I’ve started an account on the social-media platform Mastodon; more on that in another post, but for now you can find me at @tyburr@mastodon.online.)

Or maybe I kept a little blue flame of hope burning in my heart because one of my own adult children was out there in Michigan, where she currently lives, going door to door and canvassing her district. She got some guff and had doors slammed in her face, but she also had some substantive conversations and perhaps – she and her parents would like to think – changed a few minds and a few votes. Which means I consider her personally responsible for turning Michigan blue across the board, and don’t try to talk me out of it. But, more seriously, I am convinced she’s part of a generation that truly understands how precious a free society is — because they’ve seen, with their own eyes, how easily they could lose it.

Thoughts? Comments? Don’t hesitate to share.

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