Why does the media keep saying this election was a loss for Democrats? It wasn't

  

Category:  Op/Ed

Via:  john-russell  •  3 weeks ago  •  26 comments

By:   the Guardian

Why does the media keep saying this election was a loss for Democrats? It wasn't
The election swept in a number of women and politicians of color at the state and local level. Yet pundits want to pretend this was an electoral catastrophe

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



Pretty much anything that happens to the Democrats is a sign that they're weak and losing and should be worried, according to the storylines into which mainstream media tends to stuff news. Pretty much nothing, including losing, seems to signify that the Republicans are losers. In so habitually and apparently unconsciously fitting a wide array of new and varied facts into familiar old frameworks, the media shape the political landscape at least as much as they report on it.

It's in the language. The New York Times editorial board thunders that "Democrats deny political reality at their own peril" and then insists that this election in which a moderate lost is a sign that the party needs to get more moderate. Bloomberg News found a way to make a victory sound like defeat: "Phil Murphy clung on to win a second term as New Jersey's governor, surviving by a narrow margin." It was about the same margin by which a Republican won the Virginia governorship, but the language around that was apocalyptic (though Virginia usually elects a governor who's in the other party than the president, and New Jersey - which not long ago gave Republican Chris Christie two terms - re-elected its first Democratic governor in decades on Tuesday).

According to the Washington Post, which seemed to believe that Virginia was a national referendum on the party: "Democrats scramble to deflect voter anger." The verbiage that followed was stuffed with the emotive language of a pulp novel, though it was presented as news: "An off-year electoral wipeout highlighted the fragile state of the party's electoral majorities in the House and Senate. But a new round of bitter recriminations threatened to dash Democratic hopes of quickly moving past the stinging defeats." Fragile, bitter, stinging. Wipeout, dash, defeat. It is true that Terry McAuliffe lost, and also true that he was a corporate centrist who, reportedly, ran a lousy campaign; it's also true that he is not the Democratic party, and the nation didn't vote in Virginia's election.

As for this week's election, it swept in a lot of progressive mayors of color. The most prominent was Michelle Wu, who won the Boston mayor's seat as the first woman and first person of color. Elaine O'Neal will become Durham, North Carolina's, first Black woman mayor, and Abdullah Hammoud will become Dearborn's first Muslim and Arab American mayor. Aftab Pureval will become Cincinnati's first Asian American mayor. Pittsburgh elected its first Black mayor, and so did Kansas City, Kansas. Cleveland's new mayor is also Black. New York City elected its second Black Democratic mayor, and Shahana Hanif became the first Muslim woman elected to the city council (incidentally, New York City and Virginia have about the same population). In Seattle, a moderate defeated a progressive, which you could also phrase as a Black and Asian American man defeated a Latina. A lot of queer and trans people won elections, or in the case of Virginia's Danica Roem, the first out trans person to win a seat in a state legislature, won reelection.

In Philadelphia, Larry Krasner, who in 2017 was the first of a wave of ultra-progressive district attorneys to take office across the country, swept to a second term with 69% of the vote. "I want to congratulate him. He beat my pants off," said his Republican rival. In Cleveland, Austin, Denver and Albany, citizens voted in police-reform measures, and while a more radical measure in Minneapolis lost, it got a good share of votes. 2021 wasn't a great election year for Democrats but it's not hard to argue that it wasn't a terrible one, and either way it just wasn't a big one, with a handful of special elections for congressional seats, some state and local stuff, and only two gubernatorial elections.

It is true that the Democratic Party is large and chaotic with a wide array of political positions among its elected officials, which is what happens when you're a coalition imperfectly representing a wide array of voters, by class, race, and position from moderate to radical on the political spectrum. It's also true the US is a two-party system and the alternative at present is the Republican party, which is currently a venal and utterly corrupt cult bent on many kinds of destruction. It's the party whose last leader, with the help of many Republicans still in Congress, produced a violent coup in an attempt to steal an election.

A friend who is an independent Democratic party organizer remarked to me: "Democrats are analyzed completely differently from Republicans, mainly because Democrats try to govern and to enact policies that affect the entire country. The media don't cover the fact that Republicans don't govern and can't seem to report on what a party doesn't do and doesn't talk about."

Looming in the background, of course, is the fact that Republicans themselves believe they are losers, because they've hitched their wagon to the shrinking demographic of angry white suburban and rural voters. Their efforts to suppress votes and undermine voting rights, control or replace election officials, gerrymander like crazy and overturn election results are the moves of a party that doesn't believe Republicans can win fair elections. All this is treated as more or less ordinary and mostly not very newsworthy.

We're only a year out from the election that won back the White House and gave Democrats control - if by the slimmest of margins - of the House and Senate. Georgia elected two Democratic senators and Arizona sent in a Democratic senator to take a seat that had been held by Republicans for more than half a century. Which was, actually, quite a lot of winning, but you wouldn't know it from the news.

The New York Times editorial board, in one of those familiar "the party is doing it wrong" claims, declared Tuesday's results "a sign that significant parts of the electorate are feeling leery of a sharp leftward push in the party, including on priorities like Build Back Better," though Data for Progress reports that "With a +29-point margin, likely voters support the Build Back Better plan. The plan is very popular with both Democrats and Independents, who support the plan by respective margins of +83 and +19 percentage points."

Eric Levitz at New York Magazine has noted that, according to polls, "only a quarter of the public thinks the Build Back Better agenda is going to help 'people like them'", and he links to an ABC report that also says "Democrats are failing to sell the legislation to the public, who are broadly unaware of what is in the spending packages." Though if the public is broadly unaware of what's in the biggest and most transformative legislation in decades, that's a huge failure by the media as well as the party. Reporting that people don't see what's in it for them instead of reporting on what is in it for them might be the problem in a nutshell.

  • Rebecca Solnit is a Guardian US columnist. Her most recent books are Recollections of My Nonexistence and Orwell's Roses


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JohnRussell
Professor Principal
1  seeder  JohnRussell    3 weeks ago
Eric Levitz at New York Magazine has noted that, according to polls, "only a quarter of the public thinks the Build Back Better agenda is going to help 'people like them'", and he links to an ABC report that also says "Democrats are failing to sell the legislation to the public, who are broadly unaware of what is in the spending packages." Though if the public is broadly unaware of what's in the biggest and most transformative legislation in decades, that's a huge failure by the media as well as the party. Reporting that people don't see what's in it for them instead of reporting on what is in it for them might be the problem in a nutshell.
 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
2  JBB    3 weeks ago

Let the gop be overconfident. The electorate is not getting more conservative. It never occurs to the far right that many who are dissatisfied are so because Biden and the Democrats are being too moderate...

original

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
2.1  Sean Treacy  replied to  JBB @2    3 weeks ago

Read an exit poll  Democrats turned out. Independents voted Republican.  If you believe independents voted Republican because Democrats aren’t far left enough, I have a bridge to sell you.

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
2.1.1  JBB  replied to  Sean Treacy @2.1    3 weeks ago

McAuliffe is a goofball and bad candidate.

 
 
 
charger 383
Professor Quiet
2.1.2  charger 383  replied to  JBB @2.1.1    3 weeks ago

that's for sure and he was not a very good governor the first time

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
2.1.3  JBB  replied to  charger 383 @2.1.2    3 weeks ago

I wasn't surprised he lost for those reasons. 

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
2.1.4  Sean Treacy  replied to  JBB @2.1.1    3 weeks ago
McAuliffe is a goofball and bad candidate.

Donald Trump was a terrible candidate, yet Democrats seem to believe that narrowly defeating Trump  and winning Congress by a handful of votes somehow means America wants a far left racially obessesed government. 

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
2.1.5  JBB  replied to  Sean Treacy @2.1.4    3 weeks ago

Far left? Joe Biden? You wouldn't know far left.

original

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.1.6  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  JBB @2.1.5    3 weeks ago

I have no interest in the political opinions of anyone who has not openly denounced Trump.  Once they do that we can work back toward everyone "getting along". 

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3  Sean Treacy    3 weeks ago

the black knight school of analysis.

It doesn’t matter Democrats lost contested elections, they won uncontested ones. 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
3.1  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    3 weeks ago

I dont think the election was a good night for Democrats , but the idea that it was some sort of cataclysmic shift is nonsense. The mainstream media created this 'referendum on the Democrats agenda business' out of thin air, because they like to do both sidesism 100% of the time if they can. And of course the right wing media never says anything other than that the Democrats are struggling. 

Republicans are never seen as struggling because they never do anything but complain about the other party's policies and try to obstruct them. 

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3.1.1  Sean Treacy  replied to  JohnRussell @3.1    3 weeks ago

I read this by Kevin Williamson this morning and it fits the situation as well as anything I've seen:

Joe Biden, as Representative Spanberger rightly put it, was elected to “be normal and stop the chaos.” And there is some reason to believe that “be normal” comports pretty well with Biden’s personal inclinations: He is a lazy, stupid mediocrity, and the path of normalcy ought to be the path of least resistance. It would be, too, if not for the fact that he is also the hostage of a political party that is addicted to crisis.

When Donald Trump was elected, Democrats howled that it was the end of the country — and Democrats from Joe Biden to Hillary Rodham Clinton, let us not forget, rejected his election as “illegitimate.” But even those of us who opposed Trump also remember that Democrats had said much the same thing about every Republican president since Dwight Eisenhower: George W. Bush was going to usher in the dark forces of American fascism (remember   Kingdom Coming   in 2007 and   American Fascists   in 2008?), George H. W. Bush was a tool of the “New World Order,” Ronald Reagan a warmongering madman, etc. We had left-wing kooks trying to   assassinate   Gerald Ford, for goodness’s sake. Our friends on the left have been promising us either a   corporate dystopia   or a Christian Taliban courtesy of the GOP for decades. So far, neither has materialized.

But it’s not just losing elections. Everything is the end of the world for Democrats. Climate change? End of the world. Economy? End of the world. Caitlyn the social-media intern has to pay back her student loans after Oberlin? End of the   whole   damned world. Inflation? You can bet your ass that rising prices for groceries and energy would be the end of the world if Ted Cruz were president — but inflation is, apparently, the new homelessness: It’s only an issue when it might hurt a Republican.

When you are addicted to crisis, you cannot   doe normaal —   normal is the enemy...

It shouldn’t be too hard for the party of Joe Biden to look like normal and sensible compared to the party of Marjorie Taylor Greene. But the Democratic Party isn’t the party of Joe Biden any more than the GOP is the party of Mitt Romney — and the Democrats’ road back to normal does not run through Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, or Cori Bush, or any of the various progressive hysterias that seem like such a big deal on Twitter.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
3.1.2  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.1    3 weeks ago

Not interested in anything Kevin Williamson has to say. 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
3.2  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    3 weeks ago

Sean, I read that something like 12 out the last 13 times Virginia has elected a governor, which is always the year following a presidential election, the "out of party" candidate , in terms of who holds the presidency, has won. And now it is 13 out of 14.  Do you think such a trend is a major factor or do you just think Democrats suck? 

I have never liked Terry McAuliffe , I think he has a national reputation as being something of a hack, but Virginia Democrats nominated him and it is what it is. 

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
3.3  JBB  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    3 weeks ago

The gop just lost the House, Senate and Presidency.

A win in Virginia against a bad candidate isn't much.

The fact is, voters are getting lots more liberal.

 
 
 
Greg Jones
PhD Expert
3.3.1  Greg Jones  replied to  JBB @3.3    3 weeks ago

Just keep thinking that.

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
3.3.2  JBB  replied to  Greg Jones @3.3.1    3 weeks ago

You need stay overconfident. Like in 2020...

As if that drubbing was all forgotten about.

Joe Biden will be your President until 2025.

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3.3.3  Sean Treacy  replied to  JBB @3.3    3 weeks ago
e gop just lost the House, Senate and Presidency. A win in Virginia against a bad candidate isn't much.

It's amazing you can make that argument and ignore Trump's effect on the GOP losing the House, Senate and the Presidency. 

Did McAuliffe cause New Jersey to swing towards Republicans by a similar amount as well?

e fact is, voters are getting lots more liberal.

This is obviously more of religious thing for you than an attempt to deal with  reality.  Anyone who can claim "voters are getting lots more liberal" after voter swung away from liberals by more than 10 points a couple days earlier isn't really concerned with facts or the world as it is.  

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
3.3.4  Texan1211  replied to  JBB @3.3.2    3 weeks ago

The Dems are going to lose the midterms--BIGLY.

Not a doubt about it.

Dems can't even pass their President's signature legislation while holding the majority!

 
 
 
Greg Jones
PhD Expert
4  Greg Jones    3 weeks ago

The Dems have pretty much lost the independents and the rural vote. There is nothing to indicate this trend won't continue.

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
4.1  JBB  replied to  Greg Jones @4    3 weeks ago

Land doesn't vote. Trump lost by eight million votes!

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
4.1.1  Vic Eldred  replied to  JBB @4.1    3 weeks ago

Wrong. Trump lost by 7,060,519 votes. Biden got 56.9% of the vote.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
4.1.2  devangelical  replied to  Vic Eldred @4.1.1    3 weeks ago
Wrong. Trump lost by 7,060,519 votes. Biden got 56.9% of the vote.

... and it only took you a year to finally admit that. congrats.

 
 
 
Greg Jones
PhD Expert
5  Greg Jones    3 weeks ago

Oh lookie....more Dem "found" votes

mrz110721dAPC20211106104504.jpg

 
 
 
Greg Jones
PhD Expert
6  Greg Jones    3 weeks ago

Dems kissing up to terrorists....again

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
7  Texan1211    3 weeks ago

To pretend that Tuesday was anything but a disaster for Democrats is pure denial of reality.  Losing VA was bad enough, but they also lost the LT. Governor, AG, and state House. And should anyone forget, the NJ State Senate Leader was ousted.

Independents showed a dramatic shift to the GOP.

That is what Democrats seemingly don't understand. They can not win in most places (like Republicans) without the independent vote.

Telling voters who don't vote for you (although you JUST tried to persuade them to vote FOR you) isn't good strategy. It reeks of elitism, which America is rejecting. How DARE Democrats tell voters they are stupid?

I just hope the pundits here are brave enough to show up here the day after the midterms.

 
 
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