Time and again, polls conducted by respectable outlets suggested a very close contest with no clear favorite. Democratic candidates ran circles around their GOP rivals in terms of fundraising and grassroots support. And in a handful of special elections after the Supreme Court ruling overturning abortion rights, Democratic candidates and causes outperformed the party's 2020 numbers as voters swamped the polls to cast a vote for freedom.
Yet the level of disconnect between what the data was indicating and what the media was selling was astounding. The New York Times epitomized that mind-bending divide when it released its final four House polls with a lede reading like a dirge for Democrats.
The new polling from the Times and Siena College "offers fresh evidence that Republicans are poised to retake Congress this fall," declared Shane Goldmacher and Nate Cohn.
That's how they framed survey results that found Democrats leading in three of the swing districts while the fourth race was tied.
On Twitter, Cohn admitted, "On balance, the polls are better for Democrats than I would have guessed given our national polling.”
Indeed, as of 12 PM ET, Democrats had won KS-3, appeared poised to win both NV-1 and PA-8, and were still ahead in a squeaker in NM-2.
Even as a strictly amateur poll watcher, I was unnerved by the degree to which the Beltway narrative was all vibe with specious foundations at best. I don't necessarily delight in journo-bashing, but I found myself dedicating the bulk of my energy to debunking the GOP bloodbath narrative that had weirdly taken hold. Here's a small sampling:
Looking back, I wouldn't have regretted writing a single one of those pieces even if Democratic voters and candidates hadn't defied all the doomsday predictions. At the very least, I could have honestly said that I followed the facts to the best of my abilities in extremely turbulent and ahistorical times.
No journalist, reporter, or analyst is going to get everything right all the time. Your best hope is that your body of work generally holds up when the dust settles, though it will inevitably include a few outliers. And in the event that your body of work falters, you hang on to the knowledge that you honestly did your best to follow the facts.
But at some point in the 2022 cycle, many in the Beltway media succumbed to a misguided groupthink and began selectively screening out information that didn't support their settled-upon narrative. The truth is no one knew exactly what Election Day would bring, but pundits, analysts, and reporters rarely exhibited the humility to acknowledge that very simple fact. If they had more boldly and honestly declared their own uncertainty, the body of work they produced would have looked far less one-sided—dare I say, biased—in the wrong the direction.
As I tweeted Tuesday night, the level at which nearly all mainstreamers fell for GOP hooey should be both deeply embarrassing and cause for soul searching.
I'm not nearly as invested in the embarrassing part as I am the soul searching. Unfortunately, I think the two go hand in hand to some extent.
The worst part of it all is that the Beltway media writ large misled the constituency they write for: the American people. Voters, once again, proved the heroes of the story that only they possess the power to write. Though it's still unclear exactly which party will control Congress, the red wave proved more of a puddle, Democrats romped in key gubernatorial and legislative races, and ballot measures supporting reproductive freedom swept the country.
Freedom proved the biggest winner of the 2022 midterms, along with all the activists, organizers, and voters who put blood, sweat, and tears into safeguarding it.
Our country is crying out for political journalists to be equally as devoted to following the facts rather than a narrative, equally as humbled by the power of the unknowable, and equally as invested in the story The People ultimately write.
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