One of Many Election Post-Mortems

I am in horror today, and like more than half of America I am grieving.  I had so much difficulty seeing my children this morning and wondering what kind of world I’m leaving them, so much trouble talking to the Muslim woman who watches my daughter, and her daughter, who had voted in her first election and been out organizing all week.  So much trouble just driving to work and seeing the news and listening to the radio and pretending that anything is okay.

And I am shocked.  Shocked because of how wrong all of the polls were, in ways no one saw, true.  But also shocked that anyone could have voted for Donald Trump.  Shocked that he could have made it this far.  And I am left wondering how this could happen.  Obviously we have a lot of outreach to do and a good long ways to grow.  But there’s a lot of blame to go around.

Last night I was watching CNN as the election returns came in.  And as it became clear what was happening, the anchors seemed in shock and as horrified as  those of us at home.  And of course they did, because they know what this means, and they know how dangerous Trump is.  But as I was watching, I was wondering, CNN, are you happy with the choices you’ve made?  Happy with the decision to hire people who are still on Trump’s payroll?  Happy with the decision to cover the story of State Department e-mail protocols as if it was the same as every single thing that Trump did?  Happy that you analyzed e-mail dumps from a hack by a foreign power–e-mail dumps that only showed us that Clinton was a politician involved in politics, but nevertheless “raised questions”?  Happy that you spent all of the primary and most of the general election airing Trump’s every utterance, giving him hundreds of hours of free airtime and providing him an unchallenged platform on your station?  Happy with continuing the long-standing practice of evaluating everything based on what it meant for the election rather than what it actually meant for policies and for people?  Because all of these decisions shaped this election and went into making last night’s result happen.

I don’t want to unduly pick on CNN here.  Yes, they made some of the most indefensible decisions, such as hiring Corey Lewandowski.  But I think Jake Tapper has done very good work in pushing Trump’s people, and we’ve all enjoyed Ana Navarro.  Their decisions, though, are similar to what other respected media giants such as NYT, Washington Post, MSNBC and others have made.  Unlimited coverage for Trump, only horse race coverage during the primary, pretending the e-mails are the same as anything else because of “balance” or hating Clinton or who even knows.  On Super Tuesday the major networks barely mentioned Clinton’s wins, and showed Trump’s entire acceptance speech for goodness sake.

During this election season we had at least 1000 articles on Trump’s supporters, and an equal number on Hillary Clinton’s enthusiasm problem.  Where were the articles on her supporters, on why so many people were supporting her, a chance for people to tell the story of why they were voting for Clinton?

When it came to free media of rallies and the like, there was no semblance of balance.  And yet for scandals, the media felt compelled to pretend that the candidates were alike.  For every horrible thing Trump did, the media covered the e-mails.  The articles always summarized the “scandal” by pointing nothing was actually wrong–but there were clouds.  And questions.  And shadows.  Leaving every voter with the impression that there was something wrong when there wasn’t.  Yes, there were articles on Trump’s Foundation, well researched articles on his taxes, but all the scandals together probably got as much focus as e-mails where, well, nothing was wrong, per se, but surely there were questions.

And in the meantime we had to treat everything Trump said as worthy of respect, and pretend that this was a normal race.  Remember when Clinton gave an incredibly well researched speech with loads of obvious examples about how Trump was getting support from the new racist and white supremacist movements?  And then Trump tweeted that Clinton was the real racist?  And then the media the next day played it off as Trump and Clinton were trading barbs?

Many journalists undoubtedly think that they did what they were supposed to do, researching Clinton and researching Trump.  But the truth is that they built up stories about nothing for Clinton into stories of potential scandal, and to voters created the impression that these candidates were equally corrupt and untrustworthy, when there was never a competition.  The pretended that calling Trump racist was just candidates trading barbs.  Pretended that calling the KKK deplorable was a gaffe, rather than digging in to the racism.

And at the tail end of the election, the media published and poured over private e-mails from a hacked server that had almost definitely been procured by a hostile foreign power, and decided to publish a Republican press release rather than waiting a half hour for clarification.

There are ten thousand things that went wrong here, and so many problems in our country that this election has shown.  But I certainly hope that the mainstream media, who, for all the discussion of new media still have a large part to play, are considering the criticism they received throughout a lot more seriously.  Because it is largely due to them that we will now see President Trump.


It’s Never about Race, Right?

I saw this linked to on a friend’s facebook page last week:  “Don’t support laws you aren’t willing to kill to enforce.”  The gist of the article can be summed up here

On the opening day of law school, I always counsel my first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce. Usually they greet this advice with something between skepticism and puzzlement, until I remind them that the police go armed to enforce the will of the state, and if you resist, they might kill you.

The general point, one that I saw repeated by plenty of libertarian acquaintances after Eric Garner’s death, is that the real problem, the real reason that Eric Garner was killed, is that we have too many laws.  No one should have been killed over selling loose cigarettes, they agree, but that is just an inevitable consequence of having a law against selling loose cigarettes.  Follow things through to their logical conclusions.  Surprisingly, I saw this come up again after Freddie Gray’s death and the Baltimore protests, when a friend quoted Rand Paul* as saying that 80% of the problem was that we had too many laws on the books.

I’m rather amazed to see this getting this amount of play.  Firstly, it is obviously incorrect that we cannot support any law unless we would be okay if someone died for violating the law.  Off the top of my head, I support, and I expect most Americans do as well, laws against speeding, against petty theft, against breaking and entering, and running a red light, even though I wouldn’t be willing to kill to enforce any of those.  (Actually, since I’m anti-death penalty, and generally a supporter of nonviolence, I suppose I can’t support any laws?)

Secondly, though, the problem is not just that we have laws on the books.  The problem is which laws are enforced and which are not, and to whom the laws are applied.  When Eric Garner is dead and Cliven Bundy is still a free man it’s not about the laws.  When riding a bike while black is a crime in Tampa, and officers looking at “broken windows” barely even show up in white neighborhoods–where I guarantee many people still have broken taillights on their bikes and teenagers occasionally have drugs–the problem is not that there are certain laws on the books.

I will acknowledge and agree that we have some pretty terrible laws that we should eliminate and that it would help a great deal towards alleviating structural racism.  The War on Drugs comes to mind.  But really, we shouldn’t make this more complicated than it is.  We shouldn’t be looking for excuses.  I know that we don’t want this to be about race, since it’s Never About Race.  But in Ferguson the 67% African American population made up 93% of the arrests.    North Miami Beach cops used black mugshots for target practice.  And then there’s everything related to stop and frisk.

In most of these cases, cops have stopped people for little to no reason.  And in the tragic cases of Tamir Rice and John Crawford, the cops saw a black child or a black man with a pretend gun and assumed that he was dangerous, not because of a petty violation.   Maybe it’s time to start casting about for any other explanation, and admit that maybe it is About Race.

*I know, right?