More than anything else this election cycle, watching the after-math of this debate is exposing the inability of the media to fulfill its core function of informing people in the modern world. Yeah, I know, it’s easy to hate on the media, especially if you work in it. That’s why I’ve avoided doing it so far this election cycle. They’re dealing with a totally unique candidate who is a master at using media for his benefit. It’s taken folks a while to adjust. They’re finally getting better (thank goodness), but the bare truth is that despite the sheer insanity of the Republican candidate for president, the media is still covering this election like a fucking horse race.
Let me get something clear: nobody — not in the media, not in the country — should give a single fuck whether or not the completely unprecedented remarks about the rigged election will be seen negatively or positively by voters. Whether it was an unforced error. Whether it will dominate headlines. It’s not just that the answers to all of those questions are self-evident, those questions are not important. The answer’s sheer ridiculousness completely transcends the horse race. The media has a duty, all lowercase-d democrats, in fact, have a duty to do what the AP has done: to call out that comment for what it is: a complete repudiation of what makes democracy successful.
Here’s the thing: even if you believe that the media should be completely objective in its reporting, that basic fact, that democracy’s success relies on the peaceful transition of power, is objectively true. A candidate refusing to accept the results of an election in front of the nation therefore undermines democracy. These statements are indisputable, and if your question, as a reporter, is whether or not it will hurt or help the candidate who said them, you have already failed in your duty to inform the country.
Many journalists will pass this easy test tomorrow. So will many politicians on both sides of the aisle. Unfortunately, just as many journalists will fail the test. And many of the politicians will continue to spinelessly support the candidate who said it despite the fact that they will simultaneously say that it undermines the very foundation of our country.
The good news is, the candidate who made that tragic statement will not win the presidency. American democracy will probably continue on for a long time.
But my sincere hope is that those who failed in their duty to protect the American experiment by reporting the statement for what it is and supporting the candidate who said it despite the implications of his remarks will be remembered by history as people who nearly, and willingly, sent America to its doom. Because it is not enough simply to survive threats to democracy. We must make sure those threats are dealt with seriously, so that they can never recur.
Exported from Medium on October 22, 2020.