The 2016 Presidential Race finally came to an end this election day, in a very unexpected way. Last Tuesday, President Elect Trump managed to turn the map red racking up 290 electoral votes along the way. The result was declared an upset by conservative and liberal news outlets alike and the question at hand is how did nobody see this coming?
One of the main theories being thrown around is plain denial, but it is a bit more complex than that. Denial has certainly played a role, as many had a hard time coming to grips with the fact that a businessman with no political experience could be a serious candidate. However, the media is still partially to blame for perpetuating these images of Trump as a “joke” and thereby less threatening.
Additionally, the fact that news has become increasingly partisan and biased is no secret. In today’s media landscape, getting information from only one source can isolate a reader almost to the point that they are living in a different reality than someone who gets their news from a source on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Trump was able to take advantage of this flaw so that while liberals were getting their opinions of him reflected back to them by the left-leaning publications they frequent, Trump supporters ate up conservative reports that told them what they wanted to hear. Each side was so far separated they had little to no idea what was actually going on with the other camp and being surrounded only by like minded people gives the illusion that there is little opposition to one’s beliefs.
Journalism is traditionally held responsible for shedding light on the truth and facts, but this “he said, she said” type of coverage managed to do just the opposite. False equivalency was a prevalent issue in the coverage of this election. Portraying Donald Trump as simply “an outsider” or “unconventional” in an attempt to normalize him and elevate him to the same level as his opponent Hillary Clinton is a gross and irresponsible misstatement. Next to nothing about the two candidates was “equal.” Hillary came from a strong political background whereas Trump had no political experience. Hillary has faced one major scandal regarding her emails, whereas Trump has received scrutiny for his behavior and statements that characterize him as racist, sexist, homophobic, and ablest only to name a few. This was not a standard election and called for something other than the standard coverage as a result, but unfortunately most media outlets failed to respond.
Of course there are many factors that impact an election and this is not to say the media is solely responsible for the outcome, because no one party is. However, one thing that is certain and possibly unifying is that for better or worse, all Americans must now live with the consequences.