Republican FBI Director Comey and Russian intervention alone will make Donald Trump an illegitimate President. That is, he will have the power, but he has gained that power only because the democratic process has not been respected by the Director of the FBI and has been sideswiped by a foreign power. Moreover, Trump has won the job by appealing to racist values that are alien to what the Constitution stands for. This is not new for Republicans, but this time it has been far more blatant. From a political perspective, Hillary Clinton should have not referred to the large basket of deplorables among Trump supporters, but virtually all of those supporters were aware of the racist (and sexist) appeals and voted to achieve their objectives either because of them or despite them.
The point of this post is to decry the media coverage of the campaign. A friend of mine used to work as an editor at the New York Times. He recalled that every election the editors would begin by saying that they would cover policy this time and not just the horse race. And every election, the horse race dwarfed policy. This time scandals dwarfed the horse race, and the horse race dwarfed policy. The media allowed the Clinton e-mail mole hill to grow into a mountain. That mole hill played a mountain size role in its coverage of the Clinton campaign. The daily story, of course, was the ever growing scandals of Donald Trump. They deserved coverage, but they drowned out policy discussions.
The horse race got covered. And, it is possible that coverage affected the election. Everyone was sure Clinton would win. And that certitude enabled young voters to vote for third party candidates and many Trump voters (who thought he was unqualified) to vote for him as a protest vote. I don’t know if that affected the outcome, but there are savvy strategists who think that it did.
Of course, policy was left far behind. I take immigration policy as representative because it played such an important role in the rhetoric of the campaign. To be fair, the media did cover the impossibility of throwing 11 million people out of the country; it properly ridiculed the wall, and it decried the racism of his immigration appeals. But, for the most part (there was some good reporting, but not enough), it left Trump free to publicly imagine a picture of millions of Mexicans crossing our southern border.
The fact is that undocumented Mexicans in the United States are down by a million since 2007 and ½ million since 2009. The number of illegal crossings is not in the millions; it is about 100,000. And Mexican departures exceed arrivals (a fact only fleetingly reported). Far from opening employment positions that American citizens will take, employers in hotel, agriculture, and restaurant industries are having trouble filling jobs. In May, according to the Wall Street Journal online (Nov. 24, 2016 – subscription required) there were 700,000 unfilled vacancies. On the data, see also Pew Research Studies here and here.
From the perspective of employers in those industries and in construction, we need more Mexican immigrants, not fewer.
Would it have made a difference to the election if the media had given this data the coverage it deserved? I don’t think so. But political discussion should be more than a theater of and about polls and lies.