UPDATED: The media is often derided as being elitist and out of touch with Main Street, USA. Its performance on Election Night and the many months leading up to it only reinforces the notion of journalists being stuck in their coastal urban bubble.
MSNBC anchor Brian Williams has spoken frequently before of “Margaret Mead journalism” and did so again Tuesday night. He described the phenomenon as “when New York- and Washington-based journalists either accidentally take the wrong turn on GPS and drive into America, drive through America to visit a relative, come back, and report, ‘The place is covered with Trump signs!’ They’re just amazed to find this.”
Many in the media seemed to think that the inconceivable—a Trump triumph—remained inconceivable even after the notion had shifted into the conceivable—and perhaps even likely—column. A little after 11 p.m. ET, with CBS News projecting North Carolina for Trump—minutes away from doing the same with Florida—CBS News contributor Bob Schieffer said a “realistic” path to victory had emerged for the underdog. It was a lot more than that.
Back on MSNBC, Williams sighed loudly when Iowa was called for Trump. Commentator James Carville looked more than a little shocked as Clinton lost each battleground state. As Clinton’s path to 270 continued to narrow, the MSNBC team looked in vain for untallied votes in blue counties. They kept revisiting their exit polling, which had promised college-educated whites breaking for Clinton. They didn’t.
Much of the pre-game coverage focused on how the Latino vote would push key states such as Florida to Clinton, the media grossly underestimating the magnitude of the white, blue-collar vote. Not everyone overlooked this: CBS News Washington bureau chief Chris Isham mentioned talk of a “secret cache” of Trump voters that had eluded pollsters—a “silent majority that will appear on Election Day in certain key states,” he said, in the Upper Midwest.
Isham added that there was scant evidence of such a faction, though his news team at least had it on the radar screen. “Things are unpredictable in politics,” he told B&C.
Hadas Gold wrote on Politico.com that the 2016 election was as much a repudiation of the political establishment as it was of the media: “[Trump] claimed he knew more than the experts. He claimed he had taken the pulse of the ‘silent majority.’ The media scoffed, and he scoffed back, banning outlets he didn’t like, not letting them travel with him, not releasing his tax returns that the media rattled for."
"But Trump was right," Gold added. "And the media—except for a few outlets like Breitbart, shunned by the mainstream—was stunningly wrong.”
Noted Jake Tapper on CNN when the tide inexorably turned Tuesday: “It was Donald Trump versus almost all of the experts, and as of now, it looks like Donald Trump was right.”
--Additional reporting by Chris Tribbey.