Journalists and pundits, with very few exceptions, notoriously failed to seriously consider the possibility that Donald Trump would win the 2016 Presidential election. But more significantly, the Democratic candidates were given unequal consideration both within the party machine and by the press. In 16 hours Sanders was subjected to 16 negative stories published in the Washington Post. Clinton was subjected to media scrutiny regarding non-issues such as the neckline on her shirt when she was addressing the Senate.
In 2020 the media has questioned whether Elizabeth Warren is electable citing stridency, excessive liberalism; age; and other nonsense disregarding the content of her policies and the strength of her convictions. Still other writers are now pointing to the fallacy of focusing on centrists as electable, particularly for swing voters, and taking a lesson from 2016 talking about getting out the vote. They claim that the large number of young, LGBTQ, and progressive, ineligible to vote in 2016, can be the segment that can elect Warren.
The media, with its polls and pundits is fond of prognostication but this is not innocent or idle chatter. It does matter and it does sway people. As a consequence, some voters stay home while others vote for who they are convinced can win, regardless of the specific view of the candidate. We know, for example, that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sabotaged Bernie Sanders as a result of the financial power wielded by Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s fundraising and supporters managed to pay off the vast majority of debt racked up by Obama’s re-election and his sleepy attention to fundraising. Clinton’s activities resulted in her being awarded control of the party’s finances, spending, and strategies a full year before she became the nominee; a privilege generally reserved for the person after s/he becomes the nominee. This has been documented by Donna Brazille as acting chair of the DNC in pursuance of her promise to Bernie Sanders to see if the election was rigged by the party.
Research shows that, in 2016, the media treated Trump more fairly that the Democrats. He was given balanced coverage on his tweets and scandals to his primary concern in the area of immigration. In contrast, the media paid greater attention to Hilary Clinton’s scandals than to her substantive stance on issues
Research on the role of the media suggests that “unethical journalistic practices,” along with social media proliferated “disinformation” and propaganda leading to Trump’s election. Do we want a recurrence?
Media channels need to limit themselves to the social scientific data culled by reporters and to substantive stories on policy and issues. Journalists and pundits should refrain from statements based on their feelings of what people want or what they might see as essential. All social media content should be looked at with an eye for ferreting out sensational and incendiary statements and personal attacks and scrutinized for content. Failure to tend to these matters can foretell a rerun of the difficulties besetting the 2016 election
References/ Learn More:
- https://fair.org/ National Progressive Media watchdog
- https://journalism.uoregon.edu/news/six-ways-media-influences-elections Summary of the influence of social media in politics
Photo by AbsolutVision