Media Trumped by Tribalism

There’s an old saying in journalism that a reporter is only as good as his or her sources. What does it say about America’s national news media that they were caught so surprised by Donald Trump’s victory? Perhaps they spend too much time talking to pollsters and each other.

Instead of cultivating sources, they cultivate tribes.

In the final weeks, political analysts for Republicans and Democrats alike were predicting the Hispanic vote would make the difference for a Clinton victory. The media joined in.

In a typical exchange Matthew Dowd, a strategist for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign in 2004, spent the weekend before Election Day  predicting that Clinton would win by a higher margin than President Barack Obama in 2012.

Adam Nagourney at The New York Times responded with a quote from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina): “Trump deserves the award for Hispanic turnout. He did more to get them out than any Democrat.”

Did Dowd, Nagourney and Graham assume that everyone with a Hispanic surname would vote for Clinton because Trump called illegal immigrants “criminals?”

Today’s media love narrative, so here’s a story for them. In 1994, California voters were asked to consider Proposition 187. This law would have prevented illegal immigrants from receiving public benefits. I was working for The San Bernardino (Calif.) Sun at the time, and I asked one of my colleagues who had a Hispanic surname if he was opposed to Proposition 187. He was in favor of it, and he set me straight: “I don’t want to live in a barrio!”

His grandparents may have been born in Mexico, but he was born in California. How many Americans want to live in a barrio?

Proposition 187 won by a wide margin. Groups including the ACLU and the Mexican-American Legal Defense/Education Fund immediately filed lawsuits, and a federal judge issued a temporary injunction halting enforcement of Proposition 187. It has never been enforced. That does not change the fact that a majority of Californians approved it. Some of them undoubtedly had Hispanic surnames.

As someone who once admired Hillary Clinton, I hated watching her turn into another Democratic politician offering promises of inclusion to any definable group.

What kind of country says “yes” to anyone and everyone? A country cannot be a great nation if it has no standards.

America’s media, working in consort with Democratic politicians, have turned the concept of being discriminating into a condemnation. All of us have the right to think, to make judgments. Yet increasingly there are judgments we are not allowed to make, or else we are considered heartless. We aren’t allowed to question someone’s criminal history, drug addictions, lifestyle choices. If you don’t automatically side with the Black Lives Matter movement, you’re racist.

Here’s a recent absurdity: In Washington state, prison inmates will no longer be called “offenders” because it’s considered a negative connotation.

The immediate explanation on Election Night was that angry, non-college educated whites were behind Trump’s victory. This tribe of voters has been acknowledged in media coverage leading up to the election, but it wasn’t expected to be significant enough to make a difference.

In the Oct. 31st edition of The New Yorker, writer George Packer says of the white, working class: “(T)hey’re unorganized, unheard, unspoken for. They sink alone. … And no institution is guiltier of this abandonment than the political parties.”

He’s wrong. The news media are every bit as mighty as the political parties, and they have not only abandoned the white, working class but have portrayed it as being the beneficiaries of “white privilege,” thus suggesting that its current misfortunes are karma. (How many white journalists who blithely use the term “white privilege” have ever considered resigning their privileged jobs so black journalists can have them?)

One word that was not heard Election Night in the immediate postmortem, but should be considered a factor in what voters are rejecting, is “progressive.” Progressive politics is treated by Democrats and the media alike as an automatic positive — kind of like inclusion.

Here’s progressive inclusion in real life: Four days ago I was at the 24-Hour Fitness Club on McLoughlin Avenue in southeast Portland. After a long workout, I walked into the women’s locker room, and there stood what looked like a man. Broad shoulders, huge (steroid-assisted?) muscles, flat chest, deep voice as he (she?) talked to his (her?) female companion. I made a point of not staring, because I’m pretty sure that’s what they wanted.

A few days earlier I attended a meeting of the Citizen Review Committee, one of Portland’s police watchdog groups, which met in Hearing Room C at the Portland Building. Until recently there were two restrooms, side-by-side outside Hearing Room C, the one on the right for females, the one on the left for males. Now both are labeled for all genders.

I walked into the one that used to be for females and carefully approached the three stalls – wouldn’t want to surprise a guy who didn’t bother closing the stall door.

I entered one of the stalls to find the seat up. Oh, well. (How would a guy react to finding a bloody tampon floating in the toilet bowl of what used to be the men’s room?)

I quickly did what I needed to do and left.

Some males want to use the women’s bathroom, and some females want to use the men’s room. In the interest of inclusion, President Obama accommodated them – at the exclusion of those who would like some common sense with their politics.

That’s the problem with inclusion: It ultimately excludes those who don’t agree.

At least Donald Trump won’t pretend to love everyone.

– Pamela Fitzsimmons


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