The media and Trump

Gala Mendoza/Courtesy

On my run this evening, I almost got hit by a car. The driver lurched forward into the crosswalk, and we began to yell at each other, but the man’s windows were rolled up and I couldn’t hear him. All I could see was an angry white man saying something incomprehensible, his voice muffled by the poetic irony of glass windows that remain unshattered.

The man became the target of all my anger, my personal Donald Trump.

I lay in bed Tuesday night angry, not because of Donald Trump, but because my co-op decided to have a mid-week punk band night. It decided to have band night because the election was guaranteed to go our way, and it was therefore practically a non-issue. On Tuesday night, I lay in bed, failing to reconcile the reality in which I had lived six hours prior with my new reality, which was not actually new at all but was instead the actual reality of the United States.

At 5:30 p.m., my friend told me she was nervous and I laughed. At 6:30 p.m., I went to a meeting where no one could concentrate, but we told ourselves it was too soon to tell as we watched Florida go red. At 8 p.m., my friend texted me saying “It’s done” and I didn’t believe it. At 9 p.m., I didn’t believe it. After midnight, John Podesta still didn’t seem to believe it, as he addressed the Clinton Campaign with a smile and told it there would be more to say in the morning.

Many of my friends have spoken of regret over their complacency in this election, and though I interned for Clinton’s campaign this summer, I am completely guilty of the dangerous comfortability that enveloped my liberal bubble. The mood of the campaign office was always positive and optimistic, and people openly talked — though always with coy qualifiers — about applying for jobs in the administration. Campaign leaders spoke to the staff about the dire stakes of this election, but the reality never sunk in for me.

Yet how could it, when every day a news article came out “exposing” Trump’s insults and lies? When the New York Times has reported for months that Hillary Clinton had an over 70 percent chance of winning? When Nate Silver still predicted her chance was over 50% until she was all but defeated?

I was complacent, but the news sources I read did nothing to bring me out of my close-mindedness and into reality. Politicians are infamous for being out of touch with their electorate, but the news is supposed to be objective and critical and aware.

How could they all be so wrong? Who were they polling, and what questions were they asking? As the CNN political analysts scrambled to explain why all their predictions were crumbling, they reversed analyses they had repeated so many times they had basically cemented in my mind; they seized on Trump’s “outsider” advantage as the only plausible explanation for his victory, and only Van Jones brought the discussion back to racism/sexism/discrimination; they said Barack and Michelle Obama’s campaign efforts had, in fact, not bolstered Clinton but instead had reinforced her as part of the establishment; they posited that their polls were skewed because 60 million people were simply too embarrassed to admit that they were voting for Trump.

Only one of the commentators, CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, said the words “we were wrong.” They discussed at length the campaign’s failure to recognize the danger of Wisconsin and Michigan. As pundits and reporters, they too should have known that Clinton was doomed to lose those states. Clinton’s advisers were not the only political experts talking their heads off about this election, and they are not the only ones who had no idea about her impending defeat.

News organizations across the nation are reeling in the wake of this election. In a Politico interview with major news professionals about what went wrong, most of the editors cited similar problems: repeatedly bad polling data, a failure to understand Trump supporters and personal assumptions clouding organizations’ ability to report.

The media were part of the establishment against which Trump supporters were rebelling. Journalists are likely to be college-educated, relatively well-off, coastal urban elites. Salena Zito wrote of Trump in the Atlantic: “the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”

I only know a handful of Republicans personally, and I had not one Trump supporter on my Facebook newsfeed. I don’t live in a liberal bubble: I live in a liberal ivory tower with a marble mote and a wall as big as Trump’s. I was complacent, but the media reinforced my conceit about this election every step of the way. I may not have believed in institution of American government, but I naively never questioned the institution of the media, and for that I am paying the price.

I didn’t cry when Trump secured the path to victory, though I am mourning the loss of the promises of Obama and Clinton. I didn’t cry because I am in shock; it takes more than a few days for a worldview to change. All I know now is that my knowledge doesn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to the United States. I don’t know what the solution is, but it seems like we aren’t even trying.

Frances Fitzgerald is a former news writer for the Daily Californian