Wednesday was Veterans Day, but in 2020 we all know who really deserves our thanks for preserving the American way of life — the press. “The media never fully learned how to cover Trump. But they still might have saved democracy,” read a headline in the Washington Post earlier this week.
The column was authored by Margaret Sullivan, who is ostensibly a Post media critic, though any media criticism she offers lately seems to involve trolling her peers for not being tougher on President Trump. “We constantly sought to normalize him, treating his deranged tweets like legitimate news,” she wrote. In this parallel universe, the media still managed to save democracy despite a supposed reticence to criticize Trump.
Back in the real world, Joe Biden may have eked out a victory, but if this was a referendum on the media’s performance – it lost. Bigly. Despite confident pundit predictions and skewed polls, it was a very close election. And before all the votes are counted, the gatekeepers of the Fourth Estate remain anxious to claim victory. But they haven’t stopped to ask whether a Trump defeat was worth encouraging Michael Avenatti to run for president, smearing Brett Kavanaugh as a teenage gang rapist, allowing anonymously sourced bilge to define journalistic norms, and descending into a labyrinth of discredited Russia conspiracies. It might be a generation before the media is trusted again, if ever.
It was all too obvious there would soon come a time when the national press corps would regret squandering their remaining professional credibility to go to war with Trump. It didn’t take long for that time to come. The media is very unhappy that Trump hasn’t conceded the election to Biden and is instead vigorously pursuing claims of voter fraud, however unlikely it is for the results to be overturned. The time when the media functioned as a trusted intermediary to tell us who won elections has passed.
Criticizing Trump for his loose talk about vote fraud is to be expected, but major media figures are now making veiled threats directed at his supporters – and that’s something altogether different.
“I truly sympathize with those dealing with losing — it’s not easy — but at a certain point one has to think not only about what’s best for the nation (peaceful transfer of power) but how any future employers might [ … ]