When you have a mind-blowing event like Donald Trump’s election, the media — like the financial markets — try to puzzle it out. It was a depressing day for America and a fascinating day for reading. Here are a few of my highlights:
CNN did a lot of great, smart analysis during the campaign. But CNN’s election night panels found the network at its Trump-curious worst. You could see David Axelrod’s eyes literally roll back into his head when Trumpites Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany carved out an alternative reality where Hillary Clinton started birtherism and the election might be “rigged.” It was like Jeff Zucker’s take on the Mos Eisley cantina.
On Tuesday, like most nights, analyst Van Jones was placed on the right side of the CNN panel. Jones’s “whitelash” riff gained extra power because he wasn’t writing a piece for Salon or sermonizing from the safe space of MSNBC. He seemed to deliver his message of pain and fear directly to Lord, to Trump’s surrogate. (CNN, recognizing the moment, put up a split screen.) On a night when America seemed split into two nations, the CNN set was a border town.
Was Trump the Media’s Fault?
No, writes Politico’s Jack Shafer. Probably the only post-election piece that quotes Walden.
Who Got It Right?
Say this for the press: It whiffed so badly in forecasting a Trump win that there was a scramble Wednesday to find somebody who saw it. Here’s a nominee: Michael Moore’s pre-election jeremiad. Before the election, we were told by data journalists that Brexit comparisons didn’t fly. Well, Moore let fly with what he called “Rust Belt Brexit.” Read this:
The Bill James Election Abstract
The godfather of sabermetrics comments on Nate Silver’s performance and worries America could collapse into civil war. Not a piece I was expecting to read today.
For grieving Democrats, there were two notable pick-me-ups. On the New Yorker’s website, David Remnick pushed back on commentators who would “normalize this tragedy” by appealing to the angels of democracy. “To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals — that is what is left to do,” he wrote. At New York, Jonathan Chait advised liberals not to bolt for Canada but to stay and battle Trump. The pieces prefigured (and maybe inspired) Hillary Clinton’s Wednesday morning concession speech. Clinton said the Constitution demanded that she stand aside but required her allies to hold Trump to account.
Greetings From Red America
One idea echoed throughout the press: Did we understand Trump voters? Their pain, their anger? Which is funny, because the joke on election eve, especially after George Packer’s New Yorker expedition, was that the media was filled with nothing but visits with Trump voters — we were drowning in Trump voters.
The Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau put the boot on the idea that a lack of familiarity with Trump voters was how the media whiffed on calling the results, which is indeed a separate and more complex subject. Pamela Colloff, who writes for Texas Monthly, tweeted this: “My suggestion from flyover country: Don’t send reporters here on anthropology trips. Live here. Be deeply rooted.”
The Trump Administration
As much as Remnick warns against normalizing Trump, he will be the president. And as he tries to assemble a Cabinet, a plan, everything, reporters sicced themselves on ferreting out information. (Team Trump was always a leaky campaign.) The Times reported that allies Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, and Newt Gingrich were being fitted for possible administration roles — each had bet correctly that a Trump presidency was their last shot at significance in American political life.
Politico noted that even Trump opponents have greeted the news of Trump’s election — and united GOP government — with rapture. A Romney aide who once said Trump didn’t have an “ideological core” now says: “We’re on the cusp of accomplishing very big conservative policy goals, and that is very exciting.”
Today’s the day to read surreal sentences like this (via The Times): “Mr. Trump also spent Wednesday morning receiving phone calls from world leaders …”
Sadly for would-be Teddy Whites, not to mention the Game Change guys, the inside story of the ’16 campaign was written in real time by Russian hackers. The hackers’ tale was a bestseller and, maybe, a game changer. Thankfully, the Washington Post has the next best thing: a pre-reported oral history in which apparatchiks from both sides tell the story of the campaign.
There are some gems: Newt Gingrich communicated his disappointment with Trump through Fox News interviews, because, if you really want to get through to the president-elect, you go on cable. (Remember this for the first domestic or international crisis.) You can also see Team Clinton, so eager to disqualify Trump, alighting on exactly the wrong tactics. Campaign chairman John Podesta: