If you cut through all the noise, it seems to me that the media are starting to get mad at the voters.
There’s a growing gap between the hair-on-fire pronouncements of the press and the things that people tell pollsters they’re concerned about, which are mainly issues that favor the Republicans.
In stories, in segments, in columns, in tweets, you can sense the frustration that voters are insufficiently concerned about what the mainstream media view as looming threats.
What about abortion rights? What about election deniers? What about Jan. 6? What about Donald Trump? What about the danger to democracy??
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Not to mention, what about President Biden’s record of accomplishments? Why isn’t that helping??
I’m not saying it’s unfair for journalists and commentators to raise any of these things. But they also have to recognize that many voters aren’t buying into their agenda – and that the media folks have been trapped in something of a bubble.
With 44% in a recent New York Times poll naming inflation or the economy as their top issue – and abortion at just 5% – it’s clear why the election is breaking in the GOP’s direction. And by the way, this is hardly unusual in a midterm election, when resentment at the party in power would cause a significant loss of seats. (Keep in mind that Kevin McCarthy just needs a net gain of five to become the next speaker, and Mitch McConnell needs only a pickup of one seat to regain the post of majority leader.)
As Steve Krakauer, citing a Monmouth poll, says in his Fourth Watch newsletter:
“Just 8 percent of Americans say their opinions about that day have been changed by the committee’s hearings – the exact same as in August and up from 6 percent in June. 44 percent say they have no faith the committee could conduct a fair hearing – that’s the highest number yet, up 8 percent since August. But most importantly, just 36 percent of Americans say Donald Trump is ‘directly responsible’ for what happened that day, a percentage that has been progressively declining since the hearings started. The Acela Media is more out of touch than ever.”
Case in point: Tom Nichols of the Atlantic tweeted: “The United States is facing the greatest danger to its constitutional system since at least the 1950s, if not the *18*50s, and millions of people are like: Yeah, but gas, man.”
Sure, there’s been a grudging recognition that Republicans have the momentum. But that’s accompanied by a sense of disbelief.
One example: It was big news when the House Jan. 6 committee, at its mostly-rehash final hearing, agreed to subpoena Trump. But then CNN and MSNBC went wall to wall when the panel formally approved the subpoena, though nothing had changed. Most voters aren’t hanging on every procedural development (and everyone knows Trump’s not showing up anyway).
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On Biden’s legislative record, it’s true that he has pushed through a whole lot of bipartisan legislation: on infrastructure, on gun safety, on computer chips, on helping ailing veterans. And that’s pushed his approval rating up to the mid-40s. But a lot of that seems abstract when gas and grocery prices are rising, and few Democrats are asking for his campaign help.
On the economy, the president is naturally talking up what he thinks has gone right, saying yesterday that he’d help create 10 million new jobs and playing down the chances of a recession. But this can come across as a lack of concern about inflation, which he once dismissed as “transitory.”
But Trump remains clickbait gold for news outlets whose traffic surged during his presidency. On yesterday’s Washington Post home page, the most popular story was Bob Woodward’s essay on why he’s releasing an audio book of Trump tapes (he now finds the former president an “unparalleled danger”). No. 4 was a column on Liz Cheney ripping Trump and his acolytes on “Meet the Press.”
When Biden gave an exclusive interview to MSNBC, host Jonathan Capehart spent nearly all of it inviting the president to slam Trump and MAGA Republicans as a danger to democracy. No media critics batted an eye.
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It’s not that journalists and commentators are openly berating voters for not seeing the light. There’s just a sense of befuddlement that they are not sufficiently exercised at the clear and present danger to democracy: How can this be happening? Don’t you people realize what’s at stake?
Keep in mind that most Republicans believe Trump’s totally unproven argument that the election was illegitimate and it’s the other side that’s telling the Big Lie.
An NBC News poll over the weekend found 80% of Democrats and Republicans said they believe the political opposition poses a threat that, if not stopped, will destroy America as we know it.
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It’s really no mystery: A whole lot of voters will be casting midterm ballots based on inflation and fear of crime. The media mindset is elsewhere, and fairly or unfairly, that does look increasingly out of touch.