For the first time since President Obama’s re-election victory in 2012, Democrats nationwide had good reason to celebrate. Democrats were able to win the governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, and the lion’s share of down-ballot state and local races across the country.
Party leaders, still smarting from the embarrassment of Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump last year, and on the defensive over fresh allegations that the 2016 primaries were rigged in Mrs. Clinton’s favor, warmly welcomed the victories as an encouraging sign for the 2018 midterm election.
President Trump’s enemies in the mainstream media used the Democrat wins as evidence to predict an anti-Trump “wave” next year that may enable Democrats to capture majority control of the House and stymie Trump’s legislative agenda.
Given the recent political history of the two states, the Democrat gubernatorial victories should not have come as a surprise. Virginia hasn’t been carried by a Republican presidential candidate since 2004, and the last time New Jersey went Republican in a presidential election was 1988.
There were specific circumstances in each race that were probably more important than opposition to Trump which led to the Democrat victories. In New Jersey, the defeat of the Republican candidate, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, by Democrat Phil Murphy was more a repudiation of outgoing Governor Chris Christie than President Trump. Christie’s popularity is about as low as it can go. His credibility with New Jersey voters was destroyed by his suspected role in the so-called Bridgegate scandal. Several of Christie’s closest aides were tried and convicted of deliberately creating huge traffic jams at the entrance to the George Washington Bridge as an act of political revenge, on Christie’s behalf, against the mayor of Ft. Lee, New Jersey. His bold personality, which endeared him to voters when Christie originally ran for election, has worn on them. Every time he opened his mouth his poll numbers sunk even further until they hit rock bottom. Guadagno’s longtime political association with Christie doomed her campaign from the outset.
UNDERSTANDING THE VIRGINIA RACE
The factors affecting the outcome of the Virginia gubernatorial race were more complex. Virginia Democrats picked a relatively moderate candidate, Ralph Northam, a newcomer to politics with broader appeal, over the more liberal former congressman, Tom Perriello, who was endorsed by Bernie Sanders and his followers. Northam’s GOP opponent, veteran Washington operative Ed Gillespie, made an early decision to distance himself from the president, alienating Trump supporters while at the same time Gillespie tried to appropriate some of Trump’s campaign issues.
Northam was the strong initial favorite. He began the race with a 5-10-point lead in the polls over Gillespie. Hillary Clinton had carried the state last year by 5 points. Democrat voter registration has been surging over the past two decades in the populous northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., giving them a substantial statewide advantage. Gillespie seemed to be closing the gap during the last two weeks of the campaign. On election day, the race was widely considered to be too close to call.
WHY NORTHAM WON BIG
Democrat leaders who had been holding their breath later confessed to being surprised by Northam’s 9-point victory, but there were good reasons for it. First, Northam’s moderate resume enabled him to appeal to voters in military and more rural areas of the state, who traditionally vote Republican. Second, Northam got a lot of outside help from Democrat activists across the country who did not want to suffer another embarrassing high-profile loss to a Republican, especially in a state they expected win.
Liberal commentators discounted those factors and insisted that the outcome in Virginia was an indicator of a broader voter rejection of Trump’s presidency. They pointed to Democrat gains of up to 16 seats in the Virginia state legislature as further evidence of a Democrat “wave election” in the making for next year, ignoring the fact that Clinton had also won in 15 of those 16 Virginia state legislative districts last November.
To be sure, the Democrats did have a good day at the polls, scoring gains in isolated local contests across the country, but aside from New Jersey, no significant power changed hands.
REPUBLICANS STILL IN COMMAND ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Republicans remain the dominant force in most state and local legislatures and governor’s houses across the country. Historically, the political party out of the White House is generally expected to make some gains during non-presidential elections. Nate Cohn, a political writer for the New York Times, has said he has yet to see convincing evidence that the Republican majority in the House will be in serious jeopardy in next year’s midterm election. Then again, the Times expert on polls predicted up until election day that Clinton would solidly beat Trump.
According to David Wasserman of the FiveThirtyEight polling firm, “even if Democrats were to win every single 2018 House and Senate race for seats representing places that Hillary Clinton won or that Trump won by less than 3 percentage points, a pretty good midterm by historical standards, they could still fall short of the House majority and lose five Senate seats.”
But the public has not been getting such fact-based analysis from the spin-saturated coverage of the latest election. Instead, they were fed a steady diet of pronouncements that voters had rejected Trump at the polls. On the basis of last week’s election results, panels of experts on cable news channels were almost unanimous in predicting a Democrat resurgence in next year’s midterm election.
DEMOCRAT EUPHORIA OVER VICTORY MASKS DEEPER PROBLEMS
Other political experts, including more realistic Democrat analysts, such as former Long Island Congressman Steve Israel, warned that the euphoria only masks the party’s deep seated problems, beginning with the lack of a clear, unified message and identity. Also, the party has no leader around whom they can rally.
Israel says, “I hear growing concern,” from former Democrat colleagues in the House. In practical terms, Israel explained, “If you don’t know who you are, you really can’t agree on what you’re going to say.”
Former Clinton pollster Doug Schoen has been vocal in his condemnation of the dishonest conduct of the 2016 presidential primaries. Schoen agrees that Democrats “won a big victory,” and that “It was in large part a repudiation of Donald Trump. But for today, let’s be clear: Hillary Clinton, according to Donna Brazile, tried to rig the nomination financially and in terms of message. Donna Brazile has acknowledged giving debate questions. . . leaking inappropriately, apparently, to Bernie Sanders and to Martin O’Malley [as well as Mrs. Clinton.”
Schoen is also critical of Bernie Sanders for selling out his followers after he quit the race before the California primary last year. “[He] was negotiating for speaking fees and airline seats. So I’m really disgusted and I think you got to clear them all out,” Schoen said.
Another indication of the severe shortage of national talent available to Democrats is the fact they are talking again about giving the 2020 presidential nomination to Joe Biden, who will be almost 78 at the time of the election.
MANY DEMOCRATS IN DENIAL
Very little of the Democrat self-criticism and soul-searching has appeared in the mainstream media. It is mostly available on conservative news outlets, such as Fox News, the National Review and The American Spectator, as well as a few independent sources, such as The Hill, an inside Washington publication.
Many Democrats and their supporters remain in denial about their identity crisis. Their liberal allies in the mainstream media have added to their internal problems by playing up the emphasis on identity politics and political correctness, which continues to alienate many moderate American voters.
The socialist, economic class warfare agenda promoted by progressive leaders Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren, combined with the extreme demands of the various Democrat identity group factions and the anti-American tone of their rhetoric, has further alienated the working class people who used to form the Democrats’ national voter base. They still believe in patriotism, traditional morality and faith. They still hope to achieve the American dream for themselves and their children. They increasingly understand that the party no longer represents their best interests.
Their votes have been up for grabs for years. Donald Trump is the only national political leader who has reached out to them in a serious way. That is why he is president today.
HOW THE MEDIA CORRUPTED ITSELF
The media’s blatant anti-Trump bias combined with their deliberate blindness to the growing evidence of the Clinton camp’s corruption of the Democrat party and the electoral process has badly damaged the credibility of the journalistic establishment itself.
The process began during last year’s election campaign, when journalists for major publications admitted to compromising journalistic standards for fairness and objectivity to “warn” voters about the dangers of a Trump presidency. It accelerated once Trump took office, with major outlets such as CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post devoting the lion’s share of their journalistic resources to attempts to discredit the president, while largely ignoring his accomplishment. They believe Trump represents a danger to the public and feel a need to discredit him, lest he succeed in his efforts. The media’s intense concentration on Trump came at the expense of adequate coverage for many other important news stories.
Earlier this year, the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University looked at the news coverage of Trump’s first 100 days in office. It revealed that 80% of the mainstream media stories about the president were clearly negative in tone, which was twice the amount of negative coverage Barack Obama received at the start of his presidency.
A more recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 62 percent of media coverage of Trump was negative while only 5 percent was positive, compared to 20 percent negative for Obama vs. 42 percent positive during comparable periods at the start of their presidencies.
The Pew study found that presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also suffered from negative overall press coverage at the start of their presidencies, but not nearly as much as Trump. Clinton’s coverage in 1993 was 28 percent negative to 27 percent positive, while for Bush the negative-positive ratio was 28-22.
ISSUES HAVE BECOME OBSOLETE
The Pew survey examined 3,000 news stories across 24 media outlets, including top broadcast and cable news networks and the most popular news sites, between January 21 and April 30 of this year. One of the findings was that the focus of most of the stories was on Trump’s “character and leadership” rather than the specifics of his policy proposals, suggesting a desire by the media to pass judgement on his fitness as president, rather than give the public the facts and let it make up its own mind.
The steady barrage of mainstream media Trump-bashing has intensified. CNN has begun running its own ads, apparently unpaid for, in which it shows a picture of an apple and warns viewers against believing those who would try to convince them it is really an orange. The ad is intended to warn viewers that President Trump rather, than the media, is the culprit.
An anti-Trump ad paid for by global warming activist and major Democrat campaign contributor Tom Steyer is now running. In it, Steyer promotes a petition demanding that Congress take action to remove President Trump from office by impeachment, calling him a clear and present danger to the country and mentally unstable, and accusing him of violating the constitution. Steyer has spent $10 million to broadcast and print the ad and has promised to spend another $10 million on two new ads with similar messages.
Steyer spent over $160 million to support Democrat candidates during the 2014 and 2016 election cycles. He claimed that 1.9 million American voters have signed his impeachment petition. So far, only Fox News has refused to run his impeachment petition ad, citing complaints from viewers.
CLINTON’S HEALTH COVERUP EXPOSED
In the meantime, fresh evidence has emerged about the extent to which the mainstream media covered-up Mrs. Clinton’s serious health problems during last year’s general election campaign, while mercilessly pursuing dirt to use against Donald Trump. In her new book about the campaign, former Democrat National Committee (DNC) chair Donna Brazile describes urgent consultations she had in early September with other top Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, about whether to force Mrs. Clinton to drop out because of her health problems.
The first public sign of the problem came on Labor Day. A brief story filed by NBC reporter Andrew Rafferty said Clinton was unable to finish a campaign speech in Ohio because of a severe coughing fit. Rafferty was immediately attacked by his colleagues at MSNBC and Washington Post political writer Chris Cillizza, who dismissed the suggestion that Clinton had a health issue as “totally ridiculous.”
Five days later, Mrs. Clinton collapsed at the 9/11 ceremony in lower Manhattan and had to be helped into a van. The Clinton campaign issued a statement claiming that Clinton was suffering from a mild case of dehydration and had been diagnosed with pneumonia, which was already under treatment. The campaign insisted that she would soon be fine, but conservative news sites smelled a cover-up and demanded full disclosure, ignoring Clinton campaign assurances about her health.
Behind the scenes, Brazile and other party leaders were taking Clinton’s health scare very seriously. Brazile’s conversation with Biden took place the next day. She began exploring the possibility of fielding a new Democrat ticket, topped by Biden, with New Jersey Senator Corey Booker as his vice-presidential candidate.
BRAZILE DETECTED “THE ODOR OF FAILURE”
Brazile, who served as Al Gore’s campaign manager during his 2000 presidential run, wrote that she had serious concern about the Clinton campaign. She found it to be “anemic” and carrying “the odor of failure.” Brazile wrote that, in the end, she decided against trying to force Hillary to step down because she couldn’t disappoint Mrs. Clinton’s supporters.
Party officials pretended that worries about Clinton’s health were unfounded, even though it is now clear that Brazile and other top Democrats knew better. They dismissed as fantasy suggestions by conservatives that Mrs. Clinton was forced by her health problems to cut down noticeably on the frequency of her campaign appearances during the final two months of the campaign. If her health problems had been verified at the time, it may have drastically altered the course of the campaign.
Clinton, with the help of fellow Democrats and a bevy of reporters willing to look the other way, kept her secret from the voters. But Brazile’s political instincts about the shortcomings of the campaign proved to be accurate, so Clinton lost to Trump anyway.
Cillizza, who declared in his column, “It’s hard to plausibly insist, based on the available data, that Clinton is ill,” has gone on to a lucrative new position at CNN. There he dismisses and belittles claims of Clinton corruption and collusion with Russians and Fusion GPS.
ADMITTING TO JOURNALIST “GROUPTHINK”
Other journalists who covered the campaign have expressed some remorse at the way their colleagues behaved. At a Georgetown University student forum on October 27, Bon Cusack, the editor-in-chief of The Hill, and Sarah Westwood, a White House reporter for the Washington Examiner, admitted that they were part of the mainstream media’s “groupthink” which always assumed a Clinton victory to be inevitable.
Westwood said, “We all thought Hillary Clinton was going to win, and so it didn’t really matter how we approached President Trump.”
Cusack pointed out that Trump had a better understanding of how to use the media during the campaign than his opponents did, which is why he managed to get so much more free air time from the networks, especially during the primaries. Trump always made himself available for interviews, and always managed to find something to say that would command the media’s attention, which was Trump’s larger purpose.
It took a while for reporters and media executives to begin treating him as a serious candidate, and to realize how he had been manipulating them into giving him the free media exposure he craved.
Even after the media started trying to block his free access and portraying Trump as a potential danger, through his actions, comments, tweets, rallies and speeches, he forced them to cover him.
ITS ALL ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW
Writing in Vanity Fair, columnist Peter Hamby says that the president has “brought the political media class to its knees [because] Trump and his team understand that for the political press, the only thing that matters is what’s happening right now, not yesterday. And whether through his tweets or his surrogates in the briefing room, the president has been largely able to bait reporters into playing his game, because he knows what makes them tick. . . The Trump administration seems to understand our fractured media landscape better than we in the political media do.”
Citing the recent Pew report, Hamby notes that “only 21 percent of American adults say that the national news organizations are doing a very good job of keeping them informed.”
In that regard, the national media’s obsession with Trump and his antics has contributed to their credibility problem. “The political press is facing a crisis of substance, and it’s not just poisoning the public’s perception of journalism, it’s playing right into Trump’s hands,” Hamby writes.
Every time the media tries to demonize Trump and exaggerate his actions, they bolster his claim of being the victim of fake news.
TRUMP BEATS THE MEDIA AT THEIR OWN GAME
From his years in the spotlight, Trump knows how to pull the media’s strings and avoid its traps.
Since entering the White House, Trump has learned to expect his every word to be scrutinized. He is fully prepared to defend himself and strike back in kind. He knows how to beat the media at its own game, while keeping the allegiance of his followers.
His followers trust Trump more than the media, which they see as increasingly out of touch with the realities of their world. That is why, even in the face of the most serious accusations the media has hurled against him, Trump’s followers only half-listen and half-believe.