After President Donald Trump’s shocking defeat of Hillary Clinton, you would think members of the mainstream media would take a good look in the mirror to begin to evaluate how they got the outcome so wrong. Instead, the same people who promised us Trump had no chance of victory are hysterically insisting that the world is coming to an end.
For months, we were told that a Clinton victory was inevitable, and nearly every poll seemed to confirm this viewpoint. Of course Clinton did end up winning the popular vote, as many national polls projected, but her losses in swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, coupled with surprising Trump showings in states like Michigan and Wisconsin, led to a decisive Trump electoral victory predicted by almost no one outside his most devoted supporters.
One explanation for the overconfidence of the media in Clinton’s victory was that journalists were simply reporting what they wanted to be true, rather than what was actually happening. Indeed, a 2016 report by the Center for Public Integrity confirmed that 96 percent of people working in journalism who donated to a presidential campaign gave their money to Hillary Clinton. But with the overwhelming majority of media outlets and individual reporters so heavily biased against Trump, how was he able to prevail? Not only that, how did a man that the media repeatedly insisted was racist successfully win a larger percentage of the black and Latino vote than Mitt Romney did in 2012?
It goes without saying that the media has far less credibility than it once did. Mainstream bias towards liberal ideas and candidates is so well-documented it is accepted as almost axiomatic. But public distrust of the media goes beyond this problem. Many on both sides of the aisle have observed that past media caricatures of previous Republican candidates may have numbed readers and viewers to criticisms of Trump that perhaps had more validity. In a rather astonishing moment not long before the election, HBO host and comedian Bill Maher admitted on air:
“I know liberals made a big mistake because we attacked [President George W. Bush] like he was the end of the world. He wasn’t. And Mitt Romney, we attacked that way. I gave Obama a million dollars, I was so afraid of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney wouldn’t have changed my life that much, or yours. Or John McCain. They were honorable men who we disagreed with. And we should have kept it that way. So we cried wolf. And that was wrong.”
Unfortunately, Maher seems to be one of the few who sees and admits the error of his ways. Instead of making similar admissions and tempering their rhetoric, the mainstream media is doubling down, responding to every Trump tweet and cabinet appointment with the same apocalyptic denunciations with which they greeted each move of his campaign. Why not wait until he has actually done something significant before insisting that the sky is falling?
By continuing to panic over every single decision Trump makes—even when he appoints men and women who have served the country faithfully for decades—the mainstream media is further eroding what little credibility it has left. Rather than serving as an objective observer to keep politicians of all parties honest, many of the nation’s top newspapers and television networks are demonstrating that they will denounce Trump no matter what he does. This drives Americans further apart, stoking the hysteria of Trump opponents and driving his defenders further into his corner.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the mainstream coverage of Trump protestors, from high schoolers walking out of class to people gathering in cities across the country. Sarah Jaffe is one of many journalists who wrote glowingly of Trump protestors in her Rolling Stone piece, Why Trump Protestors Matter: It's more than just a release for anger – taking to the streets is a necessary way to participate in democracy, “Beyond the participants and the targets, protests also have an effect on those who witness them. Seeing large crowds can on the one hand inspire more people to come out for the first time – as many have done in the wake of this election.” Does anyone seriously think that protestors of a Clinton victory would be written about this way?
Most Americans—whatever their political views—understand that Trump is a unique figure in American politics. Most want the best for our country and are willing to wait and see what he will do. But increasingly, people with this common sense understanding of our current political situation have nowhere to turn for evenhanded coverage of our President-elect. Journalists who want to do their job—to report the truth as objectively as possible—would be wise to calm down and give Trump a chance.