The 2018 campaign season is a long way off, the primary dates have yet to be determined, and no polling has been conducted. Nevertheless, Nate Cohn, a data analyst for The New York Times‘ “The Upshot,” and Walter Hickey, chief culture writer for FiveThirtyEight, have already tweeted predictions for the outcome of a Republican Congressional primary in New Jersey.
On Sunday, the pair openly mocked the subject of a recent article of mine on Twitter. The article was about a progressive college friend of mine, Lindsay Brown, who happens to be running for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th District as a Republican in order to combat Republican gerrymandering and avoid Democratic machine politics.
“If I were an emoji person I would tweet this with that laughing-so-hard-I’m-crying face,” Cohn tweeted.
“[L]ike who the fuck writes a beat sweetener about someone who’s going to get blown out by a ham sandwich,” Hickey responded.
Now, at first blush, this derision may appear strange. Brown is a candidate for national office, and it is axiomatic that journalists should wait for the poll data before making conclusory remarks regarding a candidate’s chances. To do otherwise risks improperly influencing the election’s outcome, and undermining the Fourth Estate in the eyes of voters.
Who could forget when The Associated Press came under fire for calling the Democratic primary for Hillary Clinton based on superdelegate tallies before Californians were able to cast their ballots, even though those superdelegates would not vote until the convention? The incident reinforced the perception of a majority of Americans, that the media had a bias in favor of Clinton.
In the context of the liberal media intelligentsia bubble, however, Cohn’s tweet and Hickey’s response make perfect sense. At a fundamental level, the members of the Beltway elite, who see themselves as the “reasonable people,” lack vision.
To them, candidates like Brown are not to be taken seriously regardless of what principles they espouse. What is important is whether or not they know to play the game, and whether or not they are good at it. In other words, can they network, and can they raise money from insiders?
Brown is outside that world—in fact, she’s actively running against it. She’s a young, idealistic outsider who rejects the backing of big money; someone whose candidacy is challenging the very foundations of the “reasonable” people’s understanding of American politics. Hell, she’s even challenged me and my strong belief that the left should be focusing on taking over the Democratic Party in 2018!
In other words, to Cohn and Hickey, she has broken the rules, and is therefore disqualified. Because how could she possibly make a case to the voters in her district? Doesn’t she realize that Republicans and the progressive left are worlds apart in their beliefs? Does she not understand convention?
In the media bubble, there are no issues a progressive like Brown can run on with wide enough appeal to get Republican voters to buck their current GOP representatives.
However, the 2016 election should have put an end to this shortsighted thinking.
Senator Bernie Sanders, a populist progressive outsider, struggled to get equal coverage to his challenger—the well-known establishment favorite and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton—despite the fact he was drawing the largest crowds of any candidate, performing the best against the GOP field in virtually every poll, raising huge sums of money with an average donation of just over $27, and exciting millions of millennials across the country. On top of that, his campaign did not coordinate with super PACs, and he openly denounced big money interests.
And yet, for months, the media elitists wrote him off as an unserious speed bump in Hillary Clinton’s inevitable march to the presidency. There is no denying that the coverage gap (among other foolish things) contributed to Sanders’ primary defeat.
Today, however, Sanders is the most popular politician in the country, with broad approval from voters in both parties. Clearly there was something there…
Once Clinton was officially the Democratic nominee, voters, demanding significant change, turned to the one outsider left in the race—Donald Trump—despite constant negative stories about him, and a myriad of predictions that he stood a snowball’s chance of winning.
Perhaps this is why trust in mainstream media is at a record low according to Gallup’s annual report, released in September. Just 32 percent of Americans said they had “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in mainstream media.
I’ll leave readers of this piece with this: Should it really be the job of media elites to pick the winners and losers in political races before voters have a chance to be exposed to their options?
I reached out to both Cohn and Hickey for an explanation of their actions. I will update this article if I hear back.
Edited by Lydia McMullen-Laird