The midterm elections Tuesday – in which Democrats captured majority control of the House but Republicans kept their majority in the Senate – came at the end of a campaign marked by continuing media bias against President Trump and other Republicans.
It’s been a grueling two years of negative media coverage of President Trump, including comparisons of him to fascist dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, claims that the president is insane, and CNN’s bizarre focus on a 25th Amendment solution to remove Trump from office.
Election Day brought more of the same, with the 24-hour period hyped up like the Roadrunner on speed.
Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart said GOP voters were “OK with the president using racism.” CNN pushed the line that the “President Uses Fear and Falsehoods” in the campaign. MSNBC went full tilt-conspiracy, claiming “voter suppression” and “nefarious intent” in the Georgia governor’s race.
As the vote tallies came in, prominent liberals began to worry it wasn’t all rainbows, just like they did in 2016.
CNN contributor Peter Beinart made the memorable déjà vu comment, tweeting, “tonight is feeling horrifyingly familiar.”
New Republic Staff Writer Jeet Heer feared the Florida results. He responded to a comment about how “the ocean is still slowly swallowing Florida.” Heer replied: “Not fast enough!”
By 9:06 p.m. EST, CNN anchor Jake Tapper threw cold water on Democratic hopes. “This is not a blue wave,” he said. “This is not a wave that is knocking out all sorts of Republican incumbents.”
Only a few minutes later, CNN commentator Van Jones, the former Obama administration green jobs czar, was having his heart broken. It was just like 2016 election night, when Jones famously complained that the election was a “white lash.” Only now he was comparing the campaign positions of President Trump and the GOP to a virus.
“This is heartbreaking, though. It's heartbreaking,” Jones said. “The hope has been that the antibodies would kick in. That this sort of infestation of hatred and division would draw a response from the American people in both parties and say ‘no more.’ That does not seem to be happening tonight.”
Jones called it “not a blue wave, but it’s still a blue war.”
Democratic strategist James Carville agreed about the wave, setting lower expectations. "It's not going to be a wave election. It could still be a good election." Carville got his wish.
NBC “Today” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie had a different take on the wave election. “Maybe it’s a red wave on the Senate side at least,” she said.
Disgraced former CBS News anchor Dan Rather put a positive spin on the results by emphasizing the House win. “I think with a lot of high hopes crashing for Democratic voters in places like Florida and with Beto (defeated Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke in Texas) there is maybe a drastic underappreciation of how Democratic control of the House will change the course of this country,” Rather said. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very big deal.”
CNN Chief National Correspondent John King attributed the Democratic takeover of the House to changing demographics and President Trump. "The suburbs are growing. The suburbs are revolting against Trump," King concluded.
The revolt didn’t carry over to the Senate, where Democrats will remain the minority party in 2019. Media favorite O’Rourke lost his heavily funded Senate race in Texas to GOP Sen. Ted Cruz. Even then, ABC was reminding viewers that O’Rourke was a lot like another media favorite. “And a lot of Democrats look at O'Rourke and see Bobby Kennedy,” said longtime Clintonite and anchor George Stephanopoulos.
Even with the loss, NPR’s Weekend Edition Host Scott Simon was still singing O’Rouke’s praises. “I think @BetoORourke can still be a national candidate in 2020. He’s become a national figure and raise more $$$ than anyone else,” Simon posted.
Around 8:30 p.m. EST Tuesday, after all the polls had closed in Florida, Miami Herald political reporter David Smiley gave an early warning about how the state wasn’t going the way Democrats had hoped. And that hinted that it wasn’t going to be a big sweep.
"Democrats are very nervous right now about (Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Andrew Gillum," Smiley told PBS. "Most of the vote is in at this point, and I am starting to hear some nervousness from Democrats that he may not win..." Those nervous Democrats were correct.
The media spin started early in the day Tuesday and could be found in the opinion pages of major media. USA Today’s editorial board urged readers to “Vote out Donald Trump's lap dogs in the Senate and the House.”
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman warned readers to oppose Republicans in a column headlined “Last Exit Off the Road to Autocracy.” According to the Times’ resident left-wing economist, “the survival of American democracy is on the ballot.”
In the same section, fired FBI Director James Comey urged readers to support Democrats in an op-ed headlined “Let’s Vote to Uphold Our Nation’s Values.” Then he went out and openly campaigned for a Democrat.
Forecasts for the midterm elections were foggy for weeks leading up to the vote, with polls changing from week to week. Couple that with a nationwide media campaign to encourage voting, especially early voting, and the results were bound to be complicated.
The fact that Democrats took enough seats to win the House of Representatives should have come as no surprise. Since World War II, the president’s party has lost an average of 25 seats each midterm.
The worst example of this was President Obama’s 2010 midterm elections, which resulted in a 63-seat loss for House Democrats. Only two times did the president’s party gain seats – 1998 under President Clinton and 2002 under President George W. Bush.
The votes were barely counted in the 2016 election before CNN’s “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter was raising the specter that the vote was “something of a national emergency.”
“And are journalists afraid to say so because they're going to sound partisan?" Stelter asked.
What followed was an epic level of bias. For most of this year, TV evening news coverage of the president trended around 92 percent negative.