Even apolitical owners of big, mainstream media outlets typically don’t like to bring up the immigration debate. At the very least it’s “divisive.” More important, reporting on, say, support for a border wall could alienate new, growing blocs of ethnic consumers that businesses (especially newspapers) want to reach. But it’s not easy to write long, important thumbsuckers about Trump’s primary victory without even mentioning the issue that both launched his campaign into prominence and fueled its continued rise. Luckily, America’s premier journalists are up to the job. Let’s pause to honor three of them:
— Ron Brownstein of the Atlantic numbs the mind and tests the bladder with “How Trump Rose to Power,” an extensive, tedious listing of which groups went marginally more for Trump and which didn’t, without any hint of why they went one way or another. The word “immigration” only appears in a little sidebar box giving results of a poll suggesting it was Trump’s best issue, something Brownstein cleverly ignores. Whatever corporations are funding his elaborate “Next America”
boondoggle project should be relieved.
— Jim Rutenberg, who replaced the late David Carr at the New York Times, tries to explain why the press failed to anticipate Trump’s rise. He highlights one early harbinger of turmoil, Eric Cantor’s 2014 defeat, which he describes like this:
A conservative economics professor and political neophyte named David Brat decided he would challenge the House Republican majority leader Eric Cantor for his Virginia congressional seat. There were few Republicans more powerful than Mr. Cantor, so Mr. Brat’s bid seemed quixotic. Mr. Cantor’s own pollster released numbers days before the election showing a 34-point lead for the congressman, and the closest public poll showed Mr. Cantor up by 13 points.
When Mr. Cantor lost, headlines labeled it an “earthquake” and a “shocker.” And it was, for people who relied solely on polls. It was less so for reporters — like Jake Sherman of Politico, Jenna Portnoy and Robert Costa of The Washington Post and the staff at Breitbart News — who went to Virginia, and talking to actual humans, picked up on the potential trouble for Mr. Cantor.
I don’t know, doesn’t that seem as if those grafs are missing something … like the biggest issue in the race: the Gang of 8 immigration amnesty bill, denounced by Brat’s supporters — an issue Cantor tried desperately to defuse? But really, there’s no need to mention substance when we can focus on the process. We all have to ask ourselves the question: What would Facebook do? … P.S.: Rutenberg also perpetuates the bogus idea that everyone failed to anticipate Trump’s success: “Wrong, wrong, wrong — to the very end, we got it wrong.” What you mean, “we” …? Lots of people (mainly people who recognized the power of the immigration issue) got it right.
— Howard Kurtz of Fox dashes off a piece on Trump and the “working-class Americans who helped power [his] bid” without mentoning you know what. Of course, “Trump’s appeal to [working class] voters is often described in economic terms,” he notes. But who wants to spend time discussing that (e.g. the waves of immigrants who are plausibly said to have lowered their wages)? The culural aspect is much more interesting! They’re sick of being told to ‘check their privilege’ by Ivy Leaguers, for example.
Kurtz is no fool. He knows the Murdoch network’s tradition of downplaying the immigration/amnesty issue (even when no longer trashing Trump). He can mention trade (twice). But not that other thing.
So who’s the winner of the Omerta Olympics? I’d have to give it to Rutenberg. Kurtz and Brownstein have bosses to please. But Rutenberg’s still in the honeymoon period of his new job; he could have gotten away with a little disruption. Instead, he played it safe, issuing a stirring plea for more “on-the-ground reporting.” (If only they’d sent some reporters to New Hampshire.)
P.S.: Additional nominations accepted. ... Update: Alert readers suggest Megan McArdle, whose uncharacteristically blinkered post-mortem lashes anyone who hindered the inevitable victory of Marco Rubio, “the only candidate who could plausibly unite enough of the party’s factions to stop Trump at the voting booth.” It’s a formidable exercise in Omertism– I mean, wasn’t there some issue, some piece of legislation championed by Rubio that held him back in the primaries? Psst. Ang-of-Eight-gay! McArdle ignores it, dismissing the actual electorate as “celebrity” voters who don’t care about policy. …
P.P.S.: New York‘s Jonathan Chait, like Rutenberg, sets out to explain why “almost everyone” failed to predict Trump’s win. His conclusion: “The Republican Party turns out to be filled with idiots” — e.g. voters who unexpectedly didn’t see through Trump the way, say, Jonathan Chait sees through Trump. Never mind that this isn’t so much an explanation as a restatement of the problem — it’s Chait’s job, after all, to anticipate the behavior of voters whether it’s idiotic or not. Why did they so disappoint him and confound his expectations? It’s a mystery–since Chait doesn’t mention immigration either. …
I think we know why they blew it.