For weeks, the political-industrial complex was certain that this 2022 midterm election would be a bloodbath for democracy, a “red wave” — or better still, a “red tsunami” — sweeping America. “Here’s the thing about elections: when they break, they usually break in one direction. And right now, all the indicators on my political dashboard are flashing red — like Republican.” Blake Hounshell wrote on October 19 in the New York Times‘s most important political newsletter. Guess what? Not only did the dashboard not flash red, it flashed blue. Hounshell was not alone as grim headlines in Axios and Politico and elsewhere signaled Democrats’ doom.
But that didn’t happen. Voters rejected the anti-democratic foreign minister candidates and the predictions about what mattered most to them as they went to the polls. Maybe representative Ruben Gallego summed it up best when he texted me, “Voters are smarter than the media.” Indeed, they were passionate about almost everything that the media said voters didn’t care about. In Exit Polling 76% of Democrats said Abortion was one of the five issues that mattered most to them. Voters cared about abortion despite being told that “abortion may not be the key issue it used to be” and that “polls show Americans don’t care as much Dobbs— and will not base their vote on it.”
Voters firmly rejected autocracy and crushed every one of them donald trump‘s foreign secretary candidates, each of whom ran with the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. One of the few election deniers to win was Diego Morales in Indiana, which is hardly a swing state. Trump’s grand 2024 plan to install loyalists in key electoral posts in swing states has been rebuked by voters. Anti-democracy financiers like the MyPillow guy mike lindell, and the overstock guy, patrick byrne, burned their money.
The media not only misjudged the electorate, they underestimated the President yeah biden Look, I’ve been there myself. Almost three years ago I wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post where I wrote obnoxiously, “Not to get too technical, but I’d like to posit that the Democratic frontrunner, you know, should be in front.” Shortly after my play ran, Biden won South Carolina, Florida, Illinois, and Arizona. In the end, Biden won 2,687 delegates in the Democratic primary and crushed the rest of the field. Biden then beat Trump 306 to 232 in the electoral college (and by more than 7 million in the popular vote). Biden won key swing states of Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia.
But wait, there’s more! From the White House, Biden led a consistent midterm in which Democrats bucked historical trends by retaining the Senate — and potentially winning a seat Raphael Warnock wins next month’s Georgia runoff — while clinching victories at the state level and keeping the fight for a majority in the House of Representatives competitive (although Republicans are expected to win a narrow majority).
Throughout halftime, the media scoffed at Biden making speeches focused on democracy and opposing fascism. TV networks skipped his first speech of the series outside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, opting instead to air game shows and reruns. “They refuse to accept the results of a free election,” Biden said of the GOP’s MAGA wing in September. “And they’re working right now, as I speak, in state after state to give partisans and cronies the power to decide elections in America and empower vote-buckers to undermine democracy itself.”
In Biden’s second speech, delivered just days before the midterms in Washington DC, he recalled the disturbing hammer blow Paul Pelosi, where a deranged man broke into the Pelosi residence and yelled “Where’s Nancy?” – exactly the same thing rioters yelled on January 6th. It was a strong pro-democracy message that seemed to resonate with voters, if not political journalists, who seemed convinced that gas prices trumped all other concerns. CNN’s Chris Cillizza Calling the speech “scratching one’s head,” musing, “The problem for Biden is that voters aren’t locked into this threat. Or they see it taking a back seat to more pressing day-to-day concerns — particularly related to their economic well-being.” Once again, the pundits had misjudged voters.
I asked the White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain on this chronic case of underestimating Biden. Klain wrote: “He has been underestimated as a candidate, as president and as party leader – and he has delivered historic results in all three roles. As a candidate, he beat the previously undefeated Donald Trump; as President, he delivered critical legislation with the tiniest of margins on Capitol Hill; and now, as party leader, he has achieved an interim result unmatched since FDR’s time. He does this by stating what he stands for, fighting hard to achieve it, and speaking earnestly from the heart. He has held together the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party, built a government that looks like the country, and pursued policies that inspire young, middle-aged and older voters. President Biden is underestimated because his triumphs are triumphs of wisdom, decency and determination: values underappreciated in today’s media and political culture.”
But not only did voters vote for democracy and abortion rights, they also rejected some of Republicans’ most disgusting culture war tropes. Conservative groups reportedly overspent 50 million dollars aimed at transgender people. Voters had absolutely no interest in bullying LGBTQ+ people. The GOP hammered out the idea that Biden’s policies caused inflation, but apparently many voters realized that inflation was a global problem. Just look at the Brexit-shattered UK (13.2%) and autocrat-ruled Russia (13.7%).
For the most part, journalists covered the inflation issue without urging GOP politicians what their own solutions would be, assuming voters understandably concerned about “the economy” would simply hop to the GOP. In fairness, the Republican Party has some anti-inflationary political ideas, but they’re not popular: cut Social Security, cut Medicare and Medicaid, and bust unions.
The political-industrial media complex was wrong. You can blame polls for some of the flawed predictions; Trafalgar, for example, flooded the zone with junk partisan polls. But a lot of what has happened looks more like the groupthink that happens when you try to make a guess from too little information. Journalists, myself included, need to spend more time thinking about the country we write about and less time trying to make the country we write about fit our ideas.
https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2022/11/midterms-election-2022-media-pundits “Voters are smarter than the media”: The pundits misjudged the American people