Monday, April 6, 2020 -
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The press and the election

Listening to the polls in advance of the presidential election, one would be clueless that Donald Trump even had a chance, let alone could win.

Many journalists — we use that word advisedly here — declared openly that it was their job to cast Donald Trump in the worst possible light. In doing so, they not only disgraced their profession, they closed themselves to the real story of the election: the mood of the electorate.

Some (certainly not all) of Trump’s outrageous statements on the campaign trail turned out to be — upon hearing the full quote — not to be outrageous.

Hillary Clinton was very gracious in losing. President Obama has been very gracious in transitioning to the next administration. Both Clinton and Obama wish the new president well. So do we. Whether one was outraged by him, or voted not for him but against Clinton, or voted for him enthusiastically, he is now our president. We owe it to him, and even more to ourselves, to give him a chance.

Will the press, pundits and pollsters do the same? Clearly, there is a lot of mud all over the face of virtually every major print, broadcast and online news outlet.

How they did all get it so wrong?

First of all, people lie to pollsters. There was the additional factor here that the media made it uncomfortable to declare oneself openly for Trump — a tactic that fostered a delusion, a smug picture of the electorate, especially in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Second of all, polls capture a moment. People’s views evolve.

Third, for all the early voting, many did not make up their minds until the last minute.

Fourth, with such a volatile election — full of extreme rhetoric, charges of corruption, FBI announcements, disgusting tapes — the media missed the real story: the deep-seated misgiving that many Americans have about both the economy and the country’s role in the world.

•       •       •

A few random observations after  the election:

• Strangers are talking to each other, at the oddest places and times.

• It is up to Donald Trump to show magnanimity. He won. It is time for him to put his energies into governing well, not into taking revenge on his enemies or insulting people whom he should see as his friends.

• The electorate did not reject the idea of a female president. It rejected this female candidate, who had a lot of experience; also, a lot of baggage.

• The FBIlost a lot of credibility.

• Two post-election phenomena are worrisome: One, protests against Trump’s election — did people forget that we have a peaceful transition of power in this country? Two, racist taunts against Clinton supporters and women — did people forget that people of color and women enjoy the same rights as males and whites in this country?

• Jews turned out in lower numbers for Hillary Clinton than they did for Obama, Gore, Bill Clinton and Dukakis; though she still commanded the great majority of Jewish votes.

• The country is not as divided as it has been in the past. Check the 1824 election, and certainly the elections during the Vietnam era. As the 2016 election proceeded, hundreds of American boys were not dying in faraway battlefields each week;  protesters were not shouting, “Hey hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today.” Not to mention, we had a Civil War in this country, in which more people were killed than in all other American wars combined, from the Revolution through Iraq. Yes, it has been worse — if that is any comfort.

• Trump should abandon and disavow the dangerous incitements of Trump the candidate. He’s playing with dynamite in calling forth, intentionally or otherwise, the darker demons of our society.

• “Basket of deplorables?” The electorate — whether half or less than half — is not a basket of deplorables.

• The electoral college springs forth eternal. It is a mystery. An enigma. A puzzle. A reality.

Copyright © 2016 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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