National media turns its failure into clickbait headlines about apathy

If, in fact, Americans care more about a transitory bout of inflation than the potentially permanent loss of majority rule in this country, that is an absolute tragedy, and a travesty, and a devastating verdict on the failure of the national media to fully convey the threat of an ascendant extremist right-wing Christian nationalist party that proudly refuses to accept elections they don’t win outright.

It is not the stuff of a glib paragraph atop a story about a new poll.

If, in fact, Americans are in a panic about the economy and blaming Joe Biden and Democrats, then that that is a terrible shame, and once again a failure of the national media to fully explain the positive economic news and inflation’s roots in intractable international conditions and the extraordinary pricing power of monopolistic corporations.

It is not the stuff of a glib clause in a story about a new poll.

And if, in fact, Americans think Republicans could do a better job of the economy, then they have been successfully conned by a bunch of certified grifters, in large part because the national media has utterly failed to report the simple fact that the GOP has no actual plan to fight inflation. There is no legitimate reason to leave that utterly specious, self-defeating fantasy conclusion out there, unrebutted, in a story about a new poll.

But of course that’s exactly what the New York Times did in a story that has established the dominant political narrative this week, and for all we know, through to election day.

Shane Goldmacher wrote on Monday:

Republicans enter the final weeks of the contest for control of Congress with a narrow but distinct advantage as the economy and inflation have surged as the dominant concerns, giving the party momentum to take back power from Democrats in next month’s midterm elections, a New York Times/Siena College poll has found.

Goldmacher adopted the GOP framing of the midterm elections as a referendum on Biden, when they are in reality so much more. And the closest he came to noting that there is no reason on this green earth to think Republicans can do a better job with the economy was this sentence, about half way down:

Republicans have vowed to curb President Biden’s agenda and launch a series of investigations into his administration and family if they take charge of either the House or Senate.

The authors of a second-day story on the same poll were not to be outdone, engaging in a misbegotten attempt to turn election denial into a both-sides problem.

Nick Corasaniti, Michael C. Bender, Ruth Igielnik and Kristen Bayrakdarian led with the startling observation that “voters overwhelmingly believe American democracy is under threat, but seem remarkably apathetic about that danger.”

Anybody who expected a related, reasonable, and explanatory second paragraph, however, was sorely disappointed. Here’s what they wrote:

In fact, more than a third of independent voters and a smaller but noteworthy contingent of Democrats said they were open to supporting candidates who reject the legitimacy of the 2020 election, as they assigned greater urgency to their concerns about the economy than to fears about the fate of the country’s political system.

Most of the times, I get what Times reporters are trying to do, I just disagree with them. But what the hell was that?

It’s hardly in doubt that it’s the Republicans who are “open to supporting candidates who reject the legitimacy of the 2020 election.” This poll find them “open” to that by a 2-1 margin.

But the Times reporters think it’s noteworthy that 1 in 3 independents and 1 in 8 Democrats answered that oddly worded statement in the affirmative, too?

I can just imagine how that went down:

Pollster: “Would you support your candidate if they said the 2020 election was stolen?”
1 in 8 Democrats: “I guess?” (What kind of stupid question is this?)
New York Times reporters: “Holy shit Democrats support election deniers, too!”

These articles should instead have stated, in no uncertain terms, that if Americans don’t care enough about democracy, this is a huge failing and should be cause for alarm – particularly within the news media.

They should have stated that Republicans have no idea how to fight inflation.

And the poll questions should all have been about “why”. “Why don’t you care more about the threat to democracy?” “Are you responding to your personal experiences or what you hear on the news?” “What are your news sources?”

The headlines, stripped across all columns, should have been to the effect that voters appear insufficiently alarmed about the damage they could be causing to their futures.

Reporters should also take a break from their breathless coverage of inflation to “point out that inflation is transitory while the destruction of democracy and loss of human rights at the hands of Republican are potentially irreversible,” as one of my readers tweeted.

Political analyst David Rothkopf posted a powerful Twitter thread to the same effect.

The national media also ought to be reporting about the economy — the good and the bad and the why and what can actually be done — rather than what people think of it.

They ought to be exposing the con that GOP has solutions when it doesn’t. (See my December 2021 column, “What does the Republican Party stand for besides ‘let’s go Brandon’?”)

And they ought to be devoting major headlines and space to what does appear to be the Republican agenda, should the party emerge victorious: Chaos, and holding the economy hostage in order to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Washington Post reporter Jeff Stein took a stab at identifying the GOP agenda. He found Republicans “preparing to advance legislation” that would make Trump’s tax cuts, which mostly went to corporations and the ultra-rich, permanent.

But consider how tamely Stein explained what effect that would actually have on inflation:

Many economists say the GOP’s plans to expand the tax cuts flies against their promises to fight inflation and reduce the federal deficit, which have emerged as central themes of their 2022 midterm campaign rhetoric. Tax cuts boost inflation just like new spending, because they increase economic demand and throw it out of balance with supply. But Republicans say they believe these efforts would put Biden in a political bind, requiring him to choose between vetoing the tax cuts — giving the GOP an attack line in the 2024 presidential election — or allowing Republicans to win on one of their central legislative agenda items.

I did a little editing on that:

This is a great story: A party conning people so effectively. Why isn’t everyone writing about that?

Sometimes polls are calls to actions, not augurs of an inevitable future.

These poll results were an affront to the news industry, and a response is required.


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